Thursday, May 18, 2006

Echoes of the Participants in the Guwahati Workshop on Rethinking Rights, Justice and Development in India

April 20-23, 2006
The papers presented in the conference ‘Rethinking Rights, Justice and Development in India’ give an insight into the prevailing conditions of violation of basic human rights of various groups of people by the state itself and also by militant organizations because of ethnic conflict.
The papers in common go on to show how the most vulnerable groups like the poorest of the poor, the tribal people, people affected by natural disasters, workers in the unorganized sector have to bear the brunt of the failure of the state to provide good governance when in fact it’s priority should be to safeguard the rights of these most vulnerable sections of society.

Rethinking Rights, Justice and Development in the Northeast; A Reflection on Nagas Experience
by Imcha Imchen

This presentation looks into the Nagas’ demand for complete autonomy and secession from the Union of India. The writer in order to facilitate an understanding of the issue provides an insight into the history of the Naga Homeland, and the injustice and problems faced by the Naga people. The entire Naga Homeland had been arbitrarily divided into various states for administrative purposes without the consent of the people in the colonial regime. The Myanmar and the Indian government instead of rectifying this legitimized the divisions. The Naga Homeland was divided and half of it now lies in Myanmar and half in India. In India the Nagas are further spread over Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. The Nagas had declared their independence on 14 August 1947 and when the Union of India was formed in 1950 on the voluntary basis, the Nagas chose not to join. The writer thus says that the Nagas have a right to complete independence. The writer also looks into the misuse of the ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958’ by the army and how it has led to gross violation of basic human rights. According to the writer one of the fundamental reasons why the people in the northeast feel alienated is the attitude of the central government towards development in the northeast, however he also blames the local politicians for the misuse of the development funds. The writer has acknowledged the support being provided to various movements in the northeast by civil societies and intellectuals and also stresses its importance. Attention is drawn to the fact as to how the whole Naga movement has undergone a change from an earlier demand, which completely overlooked India to now where negotiations are being carried with the central government. Finally the writer states that the various problems in the northeast have different solutions because of different demands – while certain states want more autonomy while others want more attention in terms of development, however neither of the two would be the solution to the Naga problem since the Nagas want complete independence.

Displacement in West Bengal
By Nandini Basistha

This paper looks into the irony of ‘Development’ wherein for the so-called overall development of society, the basic rights of the most vulnerable groups are violated.
Like most other governments, the government of West Bengal too views industrialization and modernization as the most important means of development and so to encourage this large scale displacement has occurred for building dams, highways, airports, new towns etc. Urban planning in Kolkata has led to the displacement of the poorest of the poor e.g. the ‘New Town’ Project of Rajarhat has displaced small and landless farmers and fisherman. It is alleged that dams which have caused widespread displacement have failed the purpose for purpose for which they were constructed i.e. control floods, it is claimed by residents that over the years the intensity of floods in the lower Damodar has increased. Thus in the name of development thousands of people have been deprived of their basic right to shelter and livelihood. India being a welfare state ought to provide economic security for the population by providing for the people when they are unemployed, ill or elderly. Instead of doing so, in spite of the unemployment rate being high, the government of West Bengal resorted to evicting hawkers from streets. In 1996 ‘Operation sunshine’ evicted 24000 hawkers. It even led to some of them committing suicide. Thus the so-called development process involves the violation of the rights of the most vulnerable groups of people.

The Question of Democracy in Manipur
By Ayangbam Shyamkishor

This article looks into the failure of representative democracy in Manipur in every aspect.
In spite of over five decades of democracy in Manipur, accountability, transparency, responsibility, peace, stability is still a far cry. The very foundation of democracy i.e. the election process is not carried on in accordance with law and is marked by practices like rigging and booth capturing, influence of muscle and money power. Another common practice is the boycotting of elections by various insurgent groups. The law and order problem in Manipur has been a perpetual one. In fact disorder and violence has become a way of life. The main reason for weak governance is the presence of a large number of powerful militant insurgent groups. It is alleged that the militant groups even overpower the government, to the extent that they collect taxes from government departments. In order to control insurgency the Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 has been imposed in the state. In spite of the several instances of its misuse by the armed forces, the army maintains that the repealing of the Act would render them powerless to deal with the problem of insurgency. In terms of the economy Manipur still remains by and large an underdeveloped state. Agriculture the mainstay of the economy is still dependent on rainfall. The state depends on other states for most of the essential items of consumption.
A sizeable percentage of the population lives below the poverty line and there is widespread unemployment. To add to the economic crisis the government of Manipur is running the state with deficits of hundreds of crores of rupees, all due to financial mismanagement. Corruption is rampant in the state, and is a major cause of discontent, which has given rise to the involvement of militant organizations in getting rid of the corruption in bureaucracy and government. Thus democracy in Manipur has failed to fulfill any of its objectives. It has failed to provide political stability, good governance, control corruption, promote accountability and above all establish rule of law. The successful working of democracy requires participation of people in the decision making process, electing responsible leaders; it requires responsible leaders who would work for the development of the state. It is essential for the development of the state, that its resources be used properly so as to put an end to unemployment and poverty. The problem of insurgency should be solved through peaceful negotiations and corruption must be checked in accordance with law.

Echoes from flash flood victims: A case study of Balbala flash flood
By Shahiuz Zaman Ahmed

This article presents a detailed description of the flash flood, which occurred between the 7th and 9th October 2004 and affected the areas of Krishnai, Balbala and Agai, and the various relief measures taken post flood, the writer finally puts forth suggestion with regard to such disasters in future. The flood-affected areas were low-lying areas and hence flood prone. However of late tremendous environmental changes had taken place around the area due to deforestation for several purposes. Another reason for the flood was that Pancharatna-Kamakhya railroad lacked sufficient culverts and bridges to pass water to the river Brahmaputra. The tributaries of various rivers had no proper embankments to check floods either. The flood caused tremendous destruction of human lives, settlements, flora and fauna. Villages were totally washed out. The efforts made by the Indian army did manage to save a lot of lives. The official records put the number of the dead as 218, however there are claims that the real figures are much higher. One important point with this regard is that a large number of the inhabitants of the flood-affected areas had come from other flood-affected areas earlier on, and hence as per UN’s guiding principles, these inhabitants were Internally Displaced Persons. Their names were not even recorded with the district administration, and hence their death was not even acknowledged and this went against the UN principles related to Internally Displaced Persons. Various relief measures were taken but they were far from sufficient. The writer makes a comparison between the flash flood and the tsunami and says how the flash received very less importance. The improper implementation of the monetary assistance scheme of the government has also been looked into as to how several victims and relatives of the dead have still not received compensation due to the corrupt officials. The Internally Displaced Persons who had resettled in the flood-affected areas were refused compensation because they were not registered with the local administration on the ground that they were suspected be illegal migrants, and hence had to face unnecessary harassment. The flood led to complete impoverishment of the people and rehabilitation measures by the government are a must. The health and living conditions of the people is much below reasonable standards and hence requires various measures by the government. The writer puts forth various suggestions to prevent such a disaster in the future: massive forestation, controlled deforestation, construction of embankments, setting up mechanisms to forecast such disasters etc. and most important of all issuing of identity cards to the IDP’s in the state so as to enable safeguarding their rights and to prevent depriving them of their rights because of doubt over their citizenship.

A Brief Study on Human Rights Violations in Wokha District and its adjoining areas
By Ayamo Kikon

This paper is a case study of violations of human rights in Wokha district (situated in the mid west of the state of Nagaland). Certain instances of human rights violations have been cited with a view to create awareness about such happenings. The first incident cited took place at Yimpang village on March 3, 1997. This particular incident is an instance of human rights violation by the armed forces. The NSCN armed opposition groups were taking shelter in the village. The 16th Rashtriya Rifles troops arrived at the village and fired indiscriminately and in the process a pregnant woman and two civilians were killed. The villagers were also mishandled by the armed forces. The second incident cited involved a bomb explosion in a passenger bus, which was bound for Wokha from Dimapur. In this incident several people lost their lives. Regular frisking and house checking are common practices associated with security operations. These security operations do not respect the privacy of the people and have caused great trauma to the local inhabitants.

Resisting Development: A Case Study of the Pagladia Dam Project
By Barnalee Chowdhury

Development based displacement is based on the premise that someone has to suffer if the nation is to prosper. However it is always the poor and the marginalized that are made victims in the process of development. The state is vested with unquestionable power to carry on development, however of late sections of society and the affected people have begun to question government decisions with regard to development. One such example is the movement against the Pagladia Dam Project, which is to be constructed at Thalkuchi village in Assam. It is a multi purpose project that aims to serve several development objectives. However at the same time the dam will submerge 38 settled villages thereby displacing a large number of people most of whom are tribal people. The Brahmaputra Board, which is the implementing agency of the project, has drawn up a Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R &R) package. The package however is not acceptable to the people for several reasons. As per the R & R only 18,473 persons will be displaced however the number exceeds much more than that. People who do not possess proper ownership documents will also not be entitled to compensation. Thus because of these grievances the people started a movement in the year 1968. The organization is called Pagladia Bandh Prakalpar Ksatigrastha Alekar Sangram Samiti. The other grievances of the people are that the place to be given to them for resettlement is already occupied by other people, and their entry may lead to conflict. Resettlement would scatter the people in different areas and it would result in community breakdown. It is also alleged that the land being given to them for resettlement is not that fertile. The dam would also submerge a lot of schools, religious institutions. The R & R package does not provide for sufficient reconstruction of the same. The people for the various reasons have protested against the government on several occasions, however these democratic protests have always been suppressed through violent means. Thus instead of addressing the grievances of the affected people the government brutally suppresses protests against it. The media has failed to give coverage to this issue, which involves the rights o f thousands of people. The movement is an example of how people have learnt to resist state action even if it is taken in the name of development, and thus going on to show that development processes can’t ignore the rights of those who are made to sacrifice for development.

Human Rights Issues in Tamenglong District of Manipur
By N.Atungbou

This paper looks into instances of human rights violations by the armed forces and the militant groups in the district of Tamenglong, which is located in west Manipur. Since the late 70s and 80s people in the district have been subjected to torture and violence because of the abuse of the Armed Forces Act by the Para-military forces. In 1997, in Tousem sub-division the Para-military personnel tortured the entire village. In 2000 the Jat regiment shot at nine persons. In 1993 an ethnic conflict broke out in the district between the Kukis and the Zeliangrong Nagas, it lasted for four years and several people died. The state government played a partisan role and failed to intervene and control the situation then. However in the course of time the conflict came to an end. There have also been several instances of violence by armed opposition groups.

The Internally Displaced Persons of Lower Assam
By Subhash Barman

This paper looks into the displacement caused due to the Bodo movement, in lower Assam. Amongst the various groups of victims, this paper looks at the special case of the Santals. The Santals of lower Assam are the ex-displaced of the colonial regime that were evicted from their homeland Chotanagpur and were brought to Assam to provide cheap labour for the plantations. The Santals have been marginalized over the years. The Bodo movement finally led to their complete deprivation. The Bodos are the largest tribal community of Assam. The Assamese high castes have always dominated the society, polity and bureaucracy in Assam and this led to the marginalization of the Bodos, which led to their demand for the division of Assam for the creation of a separate ‘Bodoland’. The movement turned violent and it finally led to legislation in 1993 and the Bodoland Autonomous Council was formed. However in the areas under the BAC, the Bodos did not form the majority and hence started the process of ethnic cleansing to create a Bodo majority. The marginalized sections and the Santals became targets of this ethnic cleansing. Initially the immigrant Muslims were targeted, later on the Santal peasants were primarily targeted. The cleansing was carried out by militant organizations. There were large-scale massacres in which about 1000 Santals lost their lives and about 2,50,000 were rendered homeless. The displaced have been living in the relief camps in Bongaigaon and Kokrajhar districts. The living conditions in these camps are miserable and unhygienic. The ration provided by the government is insufficient and there are no provisions for drinking water. There are no provisions for education or health facilities. Moreover there is no sufficient security arrangement and hence there is always the threat of attack by the militant organizations. The government has taken no measures to promote peace so that the displaced can return home. Other people have occupied the lands of the few who returned. The government has not done anything with this regard either.

Brus in Mizoram
By Irene Lalruatkimi

The Bru/Reang tribes were original inhabitants of Mai-an hill near the Chittagong Hill Tract, Bangladesh. They migrated from their homeland to Tripura from where they were ousted by the king and then they finally settled in Mizoram. The Brus were a minority in the state of Mizoram. Most of them were illiterate and hence the government of Mizoram took steps to uplift the Brus. The Christian missionaries too played a role in this regard.
Education gave rise to community consciousness amongst the Brus and they organized themselves into the Reang Democratic Convention Party in 1990, with a view to safeguard their culture, custom, language and to promote the development of the community. The political consciousness ultimately led to the demand for a separate autonomous district. This demand was not acceptable to the Mizos and they protested against this and thus began the tension between the Mizos and the Brus. The Bru leaders ordered the Brus to leave their homes. The Brus formed the militant group called the Bru National Liberation Front and carried out violent activities. Several Bru families left for Tripura. Brus from Assam and Manipur also joined them. The Mizoram government tried to convince the Bru refugees to return to their homes and also made arrangements for their rehabilitation and security. Under these conditions a few Brus returned, while the majority chose to stay in the Tripura refugee camps.

Land Alienation in Tripura – A Case Study of the Tribals
By Sushil Debbarma

This paper looks into the land alienation of the tribal people in Tripura. It looks into the failure of the state to prevent land alienation and how the state is in fact actively causing land alienation. The TLR & LR Act 1960, imposes restrictions on transfer of tribal land to non-tribals without prior permission from the collectors. There is also a provision for the restoration of tribal lands that were transferred to non-tribals on or after 1st January 1969. However in spite of the law a very few restoration cases have been disposed off, and most of the land that ought to have been restored, remains unrestored. A major flaw of the Act is that it does not recognize the customary shifting cultivation, and all such land is recorded as forestland. The government of Tripura has been using tribal land for the rehabilitation of the refugees. The Dhumbur/Gumoti hydel project in south Tripura has displaced a lot of tribal people, moreover most of these communities are Jhumians and have no land records and hence the rehabilitation policy did not benefit them.In 1948 the Swasti Samity, a cooperative society of the non-tribal landless farmers was set up. For the setting up of this society hundreds of tribals were evicted from their homes without any rehabilitation. It can be said that the state has not only failed to prevent land alienation of the tribals but is in fact actively responsible for it.

Internally Displaced Persons: Nagas in Manipur
By Pongdeila

This paper looks into the internal displacement of the Nagas in Manipur. The Manipur Nagas lived in the four hill districts of Chandel, Tamenglong, Ukhrul and Senapati. They were displaced from these districts because of the Naga-Kuki ethnic crisis, and the movement by the Meiteis to drive out the Nagas from Manipur. The violence directed against the Nagas led to their displacement. A few civil societies and organizations did take steps for their rehabilitation but it is alleged that the government suppresses various efforts made by them. The Nagas live in fear and doubt as to whether they can ever return to their homes.

Boom in the Construction Sector of Pune
By Manish Kumar

This paper looks into the miserable conditions under which the construction labourers work in the city of Pune, in spite of the fact that there has been a huge boom in the construction sector and the labour force is a major contributor to the growth of the city. The boom in the construction sector of Pune has come about because of the growth in the IT sector and Pune has been declared as a computer hub city. The second reason is the market hike. Lastly huge investments are being made because of increasing market demand and also because of the presence of black money in the economy. Indirect foreign investment is also being made. This growth in the construction sector has led to tremendous increase in the demand for construction workers. Migrant labourers from the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand have also increased. With the growth of the sector the problems faced by the construction workers have also increased. Men and women still don’t get equal pay for equal work. Occupation and social security is almost nil. Only a miniscule percentage of the builders provide safety measures like helmets, gloves. In fact facilities are not provided as should be as laid down by the Pune Municipal Corporation. Few builders provide group insurance, which has proved not to be too helpful either. There are no health care facilities available. There are also no facilities for the education of the children of the labourers. In the midst of all the profit that is being made, the major contributors are being denied their due basic share.

A case of rights and displacement on the subansiri lower
Hydroelectric power project (SLP)
By Tarikh Kamcham

This paper looks into the rights and displacement on the lower subansirihydro electric power cooperation (NHPC) Ltd.which lies on the inter state boundary between Assam and Arunachal pradesh . That is why there is a longstanding dispute between the two states over the land on which the project site is located. The subansiri lower hydroelectric power cooperation (NHPC) Ltd., which was under initial survey and investigation by the Brahmaputra flood control board (BFCB), was transferred to NHPC Ltd by the MOWR, GOI ON 23RDmarch 2000. Thereafter the project has been under the NHPC till date. The hon’blesupreme court of India, while according consent vide order dated 19thapril, 2004 to the MOWR, GOI for the forest and environmental clearance of the project, stipulated certain stringent conditions which interalia, included:
1) The reserve forest that forms part of the catchments of lower subansiri including the reservoir should be declared as national park \sanctuary.
2) There would be no construction of dam of upstream of the Subansiri River in future
The forest department government of Arunachal pradesh intimated the MOWR, GOI of the compliance of the state government, to the above conditions as recommended by Indian board for wild life. The order of supreme court had very serious implications upon the state government such as, immense difficulty involving huge displacement of indigenous people by virtue of declaration of national park / wild life sanctuary which would have far reaching socio politico economic ramifications .the execution of the project remained suspended as per the cabinet decision as the project is located in a sensitive boundary involving boundary dispute for which the matter is being heard by the honorable supreme court . This project remained suspended for a quite a long time till a long term settlement is materialized and a formal MOW is signed with the state government by the Nhpc Ltd.

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