ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Illegal Border Crossings

The ubiquitous markers of a modern nation state are, among other things, rigidly defined borders as well as documents that grant recognition. And while technology and the imperatives of global cooperation have made the world in every sense a borderless one, there is also another shadowy world of border crossings – sustained ultimately by the desperation of migrants and the greed of an unscrupulous few. In her novel, The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai’s parallel story follows the struggle of Biju, the son of the Gorkha cook, who ekes out the life of an illegal migrant in New York. He lacks a permanent job, moves from one poorly equipped basement to another and lives in dread of the emigration official’s visit.

The reality is much harsher as seen when the Yiohan sank in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Malta one cold December night in 1996. Of the 286 illegal passengers hoping for a safe passage to Italy, 166 were from Punjab. Eleven years on, there are several families yet to receive the promised Rs 50,000 compensation from the state government. Meanwhile, the case against the 20-odd accused meanders in court; 17 of the travel agents involved had been arrested, but three are still at large.

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