Emory International Law Review


Naimul Muquim


The Urdu-speaking community in Bangladesh, commonly known as the “Biharis” or “Stranded Pakistanis,” has been living in distressing circumstances. Despite the Supreme Court of Bangladesh declaring Urdu-speakers citizens of the country in 2008, there continues to be challenges related to their integration prospects. The community still faces widespread discrimination, primarily because of the Bangladeshi bureaucracy’s systemic neglect and the community’s former refugee and stateless status. This study examines to what extent Urdu-speakers are now able to enjoy full citizenship rights. It also assesses the government of Bangladesh’s existing policies and the relationship between citizenship and the law, comprising of both domestic and the international legal frameworks linked to the protection of the Urdu-speaking community’s rights. The findings of this study demonstrate that citizenship operates differently for the Urdu-speaking minority since most of the population has a distinct social identity and continue to live in former refugee settlements. Thus, a broader notion of citizenship than the convectional legally-framed definition that currently applies to the Urdu-speaking community should be used since the traditional definition has critically compromised Urdu-speakers’ ability to exercise their lawful rights and compromised their effective integration into Bangladesh society.