Indian policy hasn’t addressed internal displacement due to armed conflict, ethnic or communal violence

Cover of CSJ report

The US State Department’s just-released document “India 2015 Human Rights Report”, among other issues, has recognized Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as a separate category, requiring urgent attention in India. It refers to the Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ’s) report (click HERE) on IDPs, with special references to IDPs in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh in order to highlight the problem. Excerpts from the section on IDPs:

As of April the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated that conflicts and instability in the country displaced 616,140 persons. There were 251,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Jammu and Kashmir and 113,000 in the northeast state of Assam, of which the majority fled intercommunal violence in late 2014. Conflict and violence during 2014 newly displaced at least 3,428,000 persons, most fleeing intercommunal violence in Western Assam.

Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) have fled the Kashmir Valley to Jammu, Delhi, and other areas in the country since 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property, by Islamic separatists. The Kashmiri Pandits began to leave Kashmir after the 1990 onset of insurgency against the Indian state. According to a Ministry of Home Affairs 2014-15 annual report, the government registered 62,000 displaced Kashmiri families, with 40,668 located in Jammu, 19,338 in Delhi, and more than 1,995 in other states. In Jammu and Kashmir, central government assistance to displaced Kashmiri Pandits consisted of monthly cash allowances and food rations, but some members of the group claimed the assistance failed to address their livelihood needs. On May 3, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and members of the National Conference protested against state government plans to resettle the group in secluded enclaves in Kashmir without consultation. Most Kashmiri Pandits preferred to assimilate in the Kashmir valley.

In the central and eastern areas, armed conflicts between Maoist insurgents and government security forces over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas continued, affecting 182 of the country’s 626 districts in 20 of its 29 states. Human rights advocates alleged the government’s operations sought not only to suppress the Maoists but also to force tribal persons off their land, allowing for commercial exploitation.

IDP camps continued to operate in Chhattisgarh for tribal persons displaced during the 2005 fighting between Maoists and state-sponsored militia Salwa Judum. Figures released in April by the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), operated by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the United Nations, reported there are 50,000 IDPs in Chhattisgarh, 13,820 in Warangal and Khammam districts of Telangana, and another 6,240 in East Godavari and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh. Reports varied regarding how many had returned to villages. Repatriation was difficult due to the intervening development of agricultural and forest land and rural-urban migration trends.

Authorities located IDP settlements throughout the country, including those containing groups displaced by internal armed conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, the Maoist belt, the northeastern states (see section 1.g.), and Gujarat. According to IDMC statistics from April, longstanding regional conflicts had displaced at least 616,140 persons, including 221,090 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 authorities registered residents of IDP camps, an unknown number of displaced persons resided outside camps. Many IDPs lacked sufficient food, clean water, shelter, and health care (se additional reporting on IDPs in section 1.g.).

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 some 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.

On January 27, the Human Rights Forum reported that Telangana forest officials raided Medepalli village in Khammam district, Telangana, and destroyed 30 huts of the Gutti Koya tribe, despite a stay from the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad. The NGO claimed the government did not grant the tribespeople title rights to lands on which they resided for nearly 15 years.

In a Study on Internally Displaced Persons of India, the Centre for Social Justice reported 3,964 internally displaced Muslim families in 86 settlements in Gujarat. The study claimed that 30 percent of the IDPs did not receive government assistance and the government inadequately compensated the remainder despite central government directives. There were reports that state government denied social welfare benefits to registered IDPs. Camps reportedly sometimes 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. Observers commonly called the Tilak Vihar neighborhood in New Delhi– composed largely of 1984 survivors–the “Widows Colony.”

Estimates of the number of indigenous tribe members displaced due to the insurgency in Chhattisgarh varied. The IDMC estimated the number of IDPs in Chhattisgarh at 50,000, in Telangana at 13,820, and in Andhra Pradesh at 6,240. The Chhattisgarh government reportedly did not acknowledge IDPs in Andhra Pradesh camps as Chhattisgarh residents, and the Andhra Pradesh government reportedly provided them little support. Repatriation of IDP’s was difficult due to development projects on Adivasi forestland and rural-urban migration trends.

IDPs in South Chhattisgarh, particularly in Dantewada, received few government services. IDPs sometimes lacked access to food, drinking water, health care, and educational facilities. IDPs reportedly lived in makeshift shelters and faced abuses by security agencies, according to the Social Justice Cente’s 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.

Download full document HERE



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