Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Reports from Marraiguda Salwa Judum Camp

JP Rao

I had an opportunity to visit Marraiguda Salwa Judum camp on the 25thFebruary 2008,exactly one year after I visited the camp earlier when it was setup. When the camp was set up in February 2007 there were around 3000 persons in the camp. Today there are around 250 families living in the camp. More then half of the people left the camp and migrated to the villages across the border. I was informed that the Chhattisgharh Government has decided to suspend supply of free rations (Rice, Dal, oil, potatoes and onions etc) to the inmates of Salwa Judum camps in both Dantewra and Bijapur districts and boards have been put up in Konta, Vinjaram and other camps stating that people will be provided rice at Rs.3 per kg and free rations would be suspended. The supply of free rations had become erratic in Konta, Vinjaram, Errabore and Marraiguda camps since the beginning of December 2007. Reports trickling in from Bijapur state that people are deserting the camps as the supply of rations have become erratic there also. When I asked the police personal 'how many people will stay in the camp if the Government asks them to return to their villages' they said 100% of people will go back to their villages. The Salwa Judum leaders present there were shock to hear this answer from the police. In the informal chat they also told us that because of the atrocities committed by the Salwa Judum peoples support to the Maoists has increased.

The Salwa Judum leader of Marraiguda camp in a tribal of Gollapalli village works as a village assistant whose salary is Rs.1000 per month. However, he owns a Bolero Jeep, which he bought after the camp was setup last year and visits Bhadrachalm daily along with his dozen cronies. I was also informed that most of the Salwa Judum leaders of all these camps in Konta division have bought properties in Jagdalpur and other towns besides purchasing gold and jewelry worth laks of rupees. This alone is proof of rampant corruption that is prevailing in Salwa Judum camps. The camp dwellers informed us that these Salwa Judum activists sleep in different houses daily out of fear. The Salwa Judum activists in Konta sleep in the police station out of fear of being killed by the people. If the government suspends free supply of rations to the camp inmates Salwa Judum will die its natural death and its activists would become sitting ducks for the Maoists and the people who suffered at their hands. I was also informed that some time back before the Naga police was withdrawn the Naga police killed every one present in a village in Bejji forest as retaliation to the killing of 12 policemen.

Goldhap Bhutanese Refugee Camp in Nepal Gutted

Som Prasad Nirula

Out of 1300 huts over 1000 huts inhabited by Bhutanese refugees were gutted by a fire in the Goldhap refugee camp in eastern part of Nepal's Jhapa District on Saturday evening. As a result around 8000 refugees have been displaced from the camps.
The fire started at around 6:30 p.m. in the evening, and later engulfed the entire camp. As per the reports from the camps seven persons have been injured with minor burns and casualty were rushed to Mechi Zonal Hospital, Bhadrapur for treatment.
According to police, the fire had started from the godown of the UN World Food Program (WFP) inside the camp and spread out toward the residential site. As the fire engines from Bhadrapur, Mechi Municipality and Damak Municipality could not control the flames, fire engines from Biratnagar and Dharan had to be called.
Fire brigades and around 500 security personnel from Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal Army and locals were mobilized to rescue the people and put the fire out till late at night. The exact extent of the damage is yet to be assessed
After the inferno, the victims are in the terrible situation and are forced to live under the open sky near by the refugee camps
Nepal Institute of Peace (NIP) call upon all the stakeholders for immediate assistance for the Bhutanese refugees

Third CRG Workshop on Internal Displacement in India: Causes, Linkages, Responses and Durable Solutions

Debdatta Chowdhury

The workshop opened on 3rd September, 2007 with the release of the report on ‘Development Induced Displacement and Deprivation in West Bengal 1947-2000: A Quantitative and Qualitative Database on its Extent and Impact’. The report prepared by Walter Fernandes, Shanti Chetry, Sherry Joseph and Satyen Lama dealt with the genesis and evolution of the development programme in West Bengal over a time frame of fifty years, from 1947 till 2000. Starting from the recent uproar in Nandigram and Singur, the 1st chapter goes back to explaining why the report came about in the first place. The glaring gap that was found to exist between the provision of Right to Live(Article 21) in the Constitution and the actual scenario, acted as the founding stone for this study and eventually the report. The finding that the development programmes undertaken in West Bengal hardly abide by this Constitutional provision in dealing with displacements and rehabilitation, prompted the researchers to go deep into the matter and eventually come up with a report that was also an eye-opener than just a mere collection of facts and figures.

Beginning with a brief introduction to the various types of displacements, as conflict-induced, natural-disaster induced and development-induced displacements, the chapter moves on to trace the beginning of development programmes and land acquisition system in the state right from colonial times. With its genesis in the Permanent Settlement (1793), the land acquisition programme moved through the draconian Land Acquisition Act(1894), the Welfare State Programme of the 1947 era and finally the Mixed Economy policy of the post independence profit-making economic set-up. Post independence saw the gradual rise of private and public sectors and human utility programmes as Dams.

The report clearly states that the absence of reliable database on the actual number of displaced people made the work difficult for the researchers. Government Gazettes, District land records, archives of various institutions and individual studies of researchers were the main sources of this report. Interviews with the displaced people also helped in the process, though there was dearth of proper representation among the interviewees.

The report gives an insight into the state of West Bengal in terms of its population, area, sex ratio,land holding and land acquisition over a period of 50 years. With details of figures, the report states that though West Bengal has seen prosperous days of land reforms and agricultural advancements during the early years of left rule, the present situation is clearly in a mess. The fact that WB does not have a proper rehabilitation policy makes the already awful condition of rehabilitation all the more painful.

Chapter 2 of the report deals with the ‘Extent and Type of Land Used 1947-2000’, whereby it attempts to specify the amount of land acquired for various purposes in WB within the given timeframe. Land acquiring started with the influx of refugees after the 1947 Partition of Bengal followed by more influx during the Sino-India War (1962) and Bangladesh War (1971). Land was fast acquired for resettling these refugees. Coupled with this was the call for liberalization of economy that included acquiring land for industries and foreign investments.

Water resources including Dams as the DVC, Maithan, Farakka saw a steady growth from 1970s. Agricultural advancements of the 1990s meant better irrigation facilities with more number of dams. In the process of building dams, the tribal areas of Bankura, Bardhaman, Purulia and Midnapore were the worst hit.

Public and private sectors as pharmaceuticals, engineering units, automobiles, chemical units, jute and textile mills, tea factories, printing presses, rice, paper and other large and medium units took up a considerable amount of land from 1950s till 1990s.

Underground coal mining and later open-cast mining together with dolomite, clay and sand mining also took up a fair share of lands, mostly in Bardhaman, Malda and Purulia.Thermal plants, transmission and distribution systems also contributes to the land use.

Land used for environment preservation in the form of Afforestation drives, flood prevention and embankments also take up a huge amount of land, mostly private lands. People are displaced without being properly resettled for the sake of conservation of nature.

West Bengal witnessed the interesting phenomenon of ‘displacement for resettlement’, whereby private lands were taken away by the Refugee Rehabilitation Act of 1948 to resettle the incoming refugees, thus displacing thousands of others. Government organized refugee camps and colonies were mostly built on private lands, displacing a huge number of people.

Human resource development as educational and research institutions, sports facilities also account for large shares of the acquired land.Health sector like hospitals, hygienic facilities, waste disposal facilities also displace a lot of people in order to create good facilities for a few others. The irony being that thousands are denied basic health facilities, like clean drinking water to make way for others.

Transport facilities like bus roads, highways, railway lines, airports, border roads are mostly built by acquiring private lands.’ Defense purpose’ is another easy way of acquiring land by the government. Apart from the land used for police and paramilitary use like training camps, outfits, cantonments and airbases, another huge lot of land is acquired under the very vague term of ‘defense purpose’, the meaning of which mostly remains ambiguous.

Increasing number of districts, expanding offices of the zilla parishads and new staff quarters are also built on private lands.
Social welfare projects like homes for the physically/mentally challenged or land distribution among the landless also use up mostly private lands.

Tourism forms an important factor as far as land acquisition is concerned. Huge plots of private lands are often acquired for building tourist destinations. But often the projects for which land is acquired remains unfinished. Other miscellaneous projects like building temples go unnoticed in land acquisition figures. Absence of a proper definition for the term ‘public purpose’ often makes land acquisition easy for the government and unclear for the displaced ones. Almost 10% of the total acquired land fall under the ‘public purpose’ scheme. People loose their land for ‘purposes’they do not know.official records show that the total land acquired in WB for the above mentioned purposes between 1947 and 1990 is about 36,56,326 hectares.

The 3rd chapter deals with the ‘type and extent of the deprivation’ that the development projects in WB have brought about. This chapter too points to the dearth of proper database. The chapter separately deals with the loss of livelihood that each of the projects bring about, as water resources, non-hydro projects, industry, mining, refugee rehabilitation, human resourse development, health, transport, government administration, farms, fisheries, urban development and social welfare.official records put the total number of displaced people over the given timeframe to 69,44,492. detailed figures of the amount of compensation received by these displaced families have also been provided, detailed analysis of which points to the variation in compensation from ‘advanced’ to ‘backward’ states. The partiality is glaring.

Chapter 4 mainly deals with the impact of the displacements. The researchers tried to get responses from a varied background from tribals, dalits to OBCs and women. Women had the least representation among the respondents due to various reasons. Interaction with the displaced people showed that only the medium-yield farmers could make a profit out of the compensation that they received. Otherwise, compensation in the form of cash hardly helped the displaced lot. Access to education was denied to those displaced, resulting in increasing illiteracy. The development projects naturally brought a change in the occupation of the people displaced. In most cases, they lost their main source of income, lost their land and assets, that led to complete impoverishment. The nature of work also changed, with a shift from agricultural work to that of a daily wage earner as a semi-skilled worker, for example as a bicycle mechanic or agricultural tools mechanic etc. most of these works were of a temporary nature. Loss of land also meant fewer livestock, though in some places, substituting land with livestock, in fact, increased the number of livestock.

The study of the process of land acquisition also brings forth the fact that most of the people who loose their land remain unaware of the acquisition policies and purposes of the government. This is because of lack of government initiative as well as due to illiteracy.

One of the major impacts of land acquisition is seen to be a last minute attempt on the part of the land loosers to grab as much asset as possible, often stealing each other’s assets. Finally, agony and fear results in a feeling of betrayal and complete disillusionment among the displaced lot.

Compensation could have been of use if it was properly and timely paid. Most compensation packages remain mere pen-and-paper contracts that never see the light of the day. Even if they are discharged, they often fail to reach the actual people and get lost somewhere in between. Those that finally reach the people are often so late in coming that by then the people are impoverished to the extent, never to be able to start life afresh. The ones displaced are often unskilled agriculturalists, who can hardly make use of the job prospects that the development projects create, since the industries mostly want skilled people.

Women are the worst victims, who bear the brunt of sexual assault. Lack of proper sanitation is a regular feature in the resettlement camps. Children’s education is hampered.
Chapter 5 ends with a question as to whether it is possible to have development with a humanitarian touch. This chapter suggests alternatives that can be taken into consideration while putting the development projects into force. It suggests that mere cash compensation is not enough. Rehabilitation is necessary. The socio-cultural identity of the displaced people, mostly tribals, should not be allowed to be hampered as that would mean a loss of national integrity. Not just creating jobs but building training centres for the jobs should also form an integral part of the rehabilitation package. Finally, it ends with a demand for new and better rehabilitation schemes and least-displacing projects.

Is there A Tendency to Associate Illegal Migrants with Terrorists? What are the Implications for Human Rights and Politics of Such Association?

Tarangini Sriraman

The UK government (Tony Blair’s government) has for the last few years been working on a project that will record the detailed identities of residents…the project involves storing such delicate information in a national database. This will be backed by the distribution of identity cards to all residents. The overwhelming concern of the UK government is to check the entry of illegal migrants and to keep a check on possible terrorist movement. Successive Indian governments have similarly been preoccupied with a national identity card that captures the identities of residents, both citizens and non-citizens: the preoccupation again being the need to weed out migrants and crack down on terrorists. The US government is planning through the Real ID Act to upgrade existing identity cards with biometric technology as a means to secure identities from terrorists and make it difficult for migrants to stay without these cards. Israel has issued identity cards marking out card-holders to be Arab, Jew or other. Those who do not possess these cards are either migrants or terrorists.

In all these cases, governments though they officially drive a wedge between the categories of migrant and terrorist, there is a tendency in bureaucratic thinking and policy-making above all to confuse these two, to associate migrant with terrorist and vice-versa. I intend to provide illustrations of this in this paper through select examples taken from countries like India, Israel and Russia.

Indian experience of equating migration with terrorism: The National Identification System Home Affairs Network (NISHAN) project in India can be traced to the successive governments’ need to check illegal migration which is described often in officialese as infiltration. The Congress government led by Narasimha Rao sought to do something about the unmanageable numbers of Bangladeshi migrants pouring into the states of Assam, Bengal, Delhi and Maharashtra. No less a site than Wikipedia reports that there has been a tendency to link the rise of terrorism with the presence of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. Both intelligence sources and media reports (both print and web media) corroborate these claims. The strategy employed by these reports is like this…they carry out surveys and interview residents to establish the number of illegal migrants who have been able to procure voters ID cards and other identity cards. And every time a terrorist attack happens, they lose no time publicizing these statistics, thereby indirectly suggesting to the government that a crackdown on migrants is imperative for the fight against terrorism. Sometimes state governments carry out these studies by themselves: the Assam government spent Rs.1.7 billion between January 2001 and September 2006, which resulted in identification of 9,149 foreigners, most of whom were Bangladeshis. S.P.Sinha, a scholar on the North-East writes that most of the insurgencies taking place there were owing entirely to the influx of illegal migrants into India’s borders. The Chittagong Hill Tracts of erstwhile East Pakistan and current-day Bangladesh account for nearly all the insurgent groups of India's northeast. In Tripura, the large influx of refugees from East Pakistan and the unlawful transfer of tribal lands incited anti-Bengali militancy, S.P.Sinha claims. Sinha concludes his many claims by suggesting that for India to breathe easier in the North-East, it must have efficient administrators and curb illegal migration. Other reports suggest that the increasing numbers of Bangladeshis in the North-East is to the effect of changing the demographic profile. Even if such claims about Bangladeshis being involved in terrorist activities may be true, there is little debate about how much of it is in response to ethnic nationalism, regional genocide resorted to by Bodo rebels, ULFA activists so on.

Examples from the Russian Federation: Russia has regarded Chechnya as a rogue state ever since the disintegration of the USSR. When the Chechen National Congress broke away from Soviet Russia, the new Russian Federation denounced the new Chechen government. Successive Russian governments have wanted Chechnya to be part of the Russian Federation, they have done everything to alienate Chechen IDPs. Russian authorities, namely the Kremlin, immigration authorities and Russian policemen have used the rhetoric of terrorism to deny human rights of housing, employment and the right to travel to Chechen IDPs. Where camps for IDPs were set up, Russian migration authorities compelled approximately 20,000 displaced people to leave the tent camps and return to Chechnya. Kate Desormeau who writes on Chechen IDPs records that Chechen IDPs were denied many rights by bureaucratic coercion, having officially prejudiced residents against these IDPs as potential terrorists. This is justified by the Russians’ policy of ‘securitization of migration’, where migrants are bureaucratically made out to be security risks.Human Rights Watch specifies that officials have constantly harassed displaced persons by threatening them with arrest on false charges and withdrawal of food allowances. They have predominantly threatened IDPs with cutting of gas and electricity supplies during winter months. What is more, Russian authorities have barred international agencies from distributing relief to Chechen IDPs who lacked documentation. Such threats are to effect of forcing Chechens to return to their homes: in all this Russia has blatantly violated obligations under international law. Constantly, it has taken refuge under the claim that its crackdown on Chechen IDPs contributes to the international campaign against terrorism.

Israeli treatment of migrants: Much of the politics surrounding Isreal’s terror campaign against Palestine in occupied territories like West Bank and Gaza is far too well-documented to be cited in detail here. However, less well-known is the drive to clean its own mainland of Palestinian workers. Though Israel used to rely excessively on Palestinian workers to work on farms and construction sites, after an uprising in West Bank in 2000, it brought in foreign workers to replace such migrants, regarding the Palestinians in Israel as a security risk. Owing to such drives, illegal migrants have lost whatever minimal housing and employment rights, seeking sanctuary in makeshift churches. Israel instead of being accountable to international law for all the deportations it is carrying out, is conducting voluntary repatriation programmes for Palestinians.

The fallouts of equating migrants with terrorists, laying down policies and releasing statistics that amounts to doing so has been largely in the nature of human rights violations. States have had a variety of agendas to fulfill by such association of migration with terrorism: be it protectionism, ethnic nationalism, security so on. Parties in countries like Israel and Russia are impelled by local prejudices to contest elections by promising tough action against such migration (not simply immigration). By fuelling the opinion that migrants apart from being a drain on states’ resources, a threat to the local labour forces and the cause of increased incidence of terrorism, such an association (of illegal migration with terrorism), vitiates politics and takes away human rights of migrants. What Kate Desormeau terms securitization of migration is something that turns the discourse of illegal migration into a discourse of security and terrorism and this is common across countries.