Victims of violence, internally displaced persons in India lack sufficient food, clean water, shelter, and health care

The US State Department report quotes from this report by the Centre for Social Justice. Click on the image to download

Reproduced below are two small portions from the 68-page “India 2014 Human Rights Report” (click HERE to download), forming part of the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014”, brought out by the United States Department of State,  Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour. While the first section is the Executive Summary of the India report, the second one concerns the internally displaced persons (IDPs), who in recent years have acquired considerable attention of civil society activists.The report quotes from the Centre for Social Justice report on IDPs (click HERE) to point towards the issues involved.

Executive Summary: India is a multi-party, federal, parliamentary democracy with a bicameral parliament. The president, elected by an electoral college, is the chief of state, and the prime minister is the head of the government. Under the constitution the 29 states and seven union territories have a high degree of autonomy and have primary responsibility for law and order. On June 2, Andhra Pradesh was divided into the state of Telangana and a residual state of Andhra Pradesh. President Pranab Mukherjee was elected in 2012 to a five-year term, and Narendra Modi became prime minister following the victory of the National Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the May 2014 general elections. These elections, the largest democratic elections in history, were considered free and fair, despite isolated instances of violence. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption that contributed to ineffective responses to crime, including those against women and members of scheduled castes or tribes; and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe. Other human rights problems included disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pretrial detention. The judiciary remained backlogged, leading to lengthy delays and the denial of due process.

There were instances of infringement of privacy rights. The law in some states restricts religious conversion, and there were reports of arrests but no reports of convictions under those laws. Some limits on the freedom of movement continued. Rape, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths, honor killings, sexual harassment, and discrimination against women remained serious societal problems. Child abuse and forced and early marriage were problems. Trafficking in persons, including widespread bonded and forced labor of children and adults, and sex trafficking of children and adults for prostitution were serious problems.

Castebased discrimination continued, as did discrimination against persons with disabilities and indigenous persons; discrimination and violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation as well as persons with HIV/AIDS continued. A lack of accountability for misconduct at all levels of government persisted. Investigations and prosecutions of individual cases took place, but lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and underresourced court system contributed to infrequent convictions. Separatist insurgents and terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern states, and the Maoist belt committed serious abuses, including killings of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians. Insurgents were responsible for numerous cases of kidnapping, torture, rape, extortion, and the use of child soldiers.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Internally Displaced Persons settlements were found in various locations in the country, including those containing groups displaced by internal armed conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, the Maoist belt, the northeastern states and Gujarat. According to the 2013 International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) statistics, regional conflicts had displaced at least 526,000 persons, including several thousand Kashmiri Hindus driven from their homes by antigovernment insurgents. Estimating the exact number of those displaced by conflict or violence was difficult, because no central government agency was responsible for monitoring the movements of displaced persons, and humanitarian and human rights agencies had limited access to camps and affected regions. While residents of IDP camps were registered, an unknown number of displaced persons resided outside camps. Many IDPs lacked sufficient food, clean water, shelter, and health care.

Paramilitary operations against Maoists displaced members of the Gutti Koya tribe in the Dandakaranya forests in Chhattisgarh, who migrated to the neighboring Khammam and Warangal districts in Telangana. Following bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to form the new state of Telangana, the state governments transferred parts of Khammam District with Gutti Koya settlements to Andhra Pradesh. According to an activist working among the Gutti Koya in Khammam District, an estimated 16,000 tribal members settled in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Local officials undertook sporadic initiatives to provide food, work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, education for displaced Gutti Koya children under the Right to Education program, and health care.

The most recent available, “Study on Internally Displaced Persons of India”, by the Centre for Social Justice reported 3,964 internally displaced Muslim families in 86 settlements in Gujarat. The study stated that 30 percent of the IDPs had not received any government assistance and the rest had been inadequately compensated. The Gujarat government, which initially claimed there were no IDPs, continued to hold back compensation, although the central government directed it to provide compensation. There were reports the state government denied social welfare benefits to registered IDPs. Camps lacked basic amenities such as drinking water, power, sanitation, health care, and education.

Displaced family members of victims killed during the 1984 anti-Sikh violence and other instances of communal violence struggled to maintain economic livelihoods. The Tilak Vihar neighborhood in New Delhi–composed largely of 1984 survivors- -was commonly referred to as the “Widows Colony.” Estimates of the number of indigenous tribe members displaced due to the insurgency in Chhattisgarh varied. The IDMC estimated that 148,000 IDPs from Chhattisgarh had migrated to Andhra Pradesh. The Chhattisgarh government reportedly did not acknowledge IDPs in Andhra Pradesh camps as Chhattisgarh residents, and the Andhra Pradesh government provided them little support. IDPs in South Chhattisgarh, particularly in Dantewada, received few government services. IDPs lacked access to food, drinking water, health care, and educational facilities.

IDPs lived in makeshift shelters and faced abuses by security agencies, according to the Social Justice Centre’s most recent, Study on Internally Displaced Persons of India. National policy or legislation did not address the issue of internal displacement resulting from armed conflict or from ethnic or communal violence. Responsibility for the welfare of IDPs was generally the purview of state governments and local authorities, allowing for gaps in services and poor accountability. The central government provided limited assistance to IDPs. IDPs had access to NGOs and human rights organizations, but neither access nor assistance was standard for all IDPs or all situations. Protection of Refugees the Foreigners Act (1946) does not contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees as any other foreigners. Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Refugees without documentation were vulnerable to forced repatriation and other abuses. The government generally provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where refugees would face threats to their safety or freedom due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

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