From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

Representations of Bangladeshis and internal ‘Others’ in the Indian press: the cases of Felani Khatun, Zohra Bibi and the ‘woman in red sari’

Monish Bhatia and Rimple Mehta


The India-Bangladesh border is the fifth longest border in the world. It is 4,096.7 km long and runs through five densely populated states in India. It is also the longest border India has with any of its neighbours. The nature of the border has created its own specific issues for bordering practices, as people cross borders informally and for variety of reasons (such as trade, farming, kinship, tourism to list a few). The response to unauthorised mobilities is always in terms of the need for more guards and physical presence, along with inhumane border control tactics and the use of force. Importantly, India’s borders and approach to the idea of security is mired in the colonial past, but also the communal and gendered ways in which the boundaries of the nation-state are represented in postcolonial India. These intersections of communal and gendered patterns are also evident in the media reporting of Muslim people and Bangladeshi migrants in India; nevertheless, it has not received sufficient academic attention. There is a dearth of literature which focuses on the representations of Bangladeshi migrants and Muslims in Indian media. This article explores how the media brings the Bangladeshi woman and the Muslim Indian woman together in a discourse which represents them as ‘other’, along the lines of gender, religion, nationality and migration status. The article utilises the existing body of work around borders, migration, media, and gender, which is developed further through the analysis of three well-publicised cases of the ‘woman in red sari’, Zohra Bibi and Felani Khatun. Their media representations bring to the fore three important themes for consideration: ‘madness’, criminality and cruelty.


Indian media, Bangladeshi migrants, Muslims, gender, borders



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