Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ethnic Violence and Internal Displacement in North East India

IDMC in a report “This is our Land” Ethnic Violence and internal displacement in north-east India” released on November 2011 discusses the status of displacement in North East India. According to the report more than 800,000 people are displaced within the region as a result of: - violence and displacement in Assam and Meghalaya states in December 2010 and January 2011; violence and displacement in Western Assam during the 1990s and 2000s; and violence and displacement from Mizoram state to Tripura state in 1997 and 2009. Since India’s independence in 1947 the North-eastern region have been witness to episodes of armed conflict and generalised violence. The report indicates that though the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution has been a means of India has been used as a tool for some “to establish a de facto ethnic “homeland”, as it provides special protection to some “tribes” in north-eastern states, by recognising “Tribal Areas” administered through Autonomous Councils. A demographic majority in an area is necessary for groups to seek this status. This has created grievances among minorities living in territories falling under Autonomous Councils. The hundreds of ethnic groups in north-east India do not live in distinct areas, and so their demands for ethnic homelands have often led to generalised violence and, in turn, internal displacement. The number of episodes of displacement shows that the Sixth Schedule does not lead to effective and stable protection of the north-east’s many groups, but rather perpetuates potentially violent competition for land and political power”(pp4).

The status report is divided into six chapters. In Chapter 2: Overview of the numbers of people internally displaced, according to conservative estimates approximately 76,000 people from NE India might be IDPs as a result of conflict induced displacement. One of the problem areas regarding assessing the number of IDPs remain that inadequacy of records. The official information on IDPs in camps is the only information researchers have to rely on which means the vast number of IDPs not staying in camps do not count in the official figures. Similarly, when a camp gets closed the official figures they are not considered as IDPs. Going by the conservative estimates the number of displaced in the region is shown in the table reproduced from the report.

Table 1: Number of People Currently Living in Displacement in North-East India

Chapter 3 discusses the displacement in the Assam- Meghalaya Border region. “In December 2010 and January 2011, violence between Garo and Rabha people in Assam’s Goalpara District and Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills District displaced about 50,000 people. The IDPs were housed in public buildings, mostly schools, in both districts. The authorities initially provided food rations and health services, but sanitation was a problem. Rs. 10,000 ($200) and some building materials were given as compensation to those whose houses had been destroyed. The Indian Red Cross Society and NGOs provided additional assistance. The camps were closed in February and March, in spite of the fact that many people were reluctant to return for fear of further clashes. IDPs and returnees had difficulty accessing livelihoods, and the education of displaced children as well as local children in whose schools the camps were set up was interrupted”(pp 4).

Chapter 4 highlights the situation “in Western Assam, more than 46,000 Adivasis, Bodos and Muslims remained in protracted displacement after several hundred thousand of them were forced to flee ethnic violence during the 1990s. The authorities stopped providing food rations in 2010 and distributed a rehabilitation grant of Rs. 50,000 ($1,000) to many families. The IDPs had difficulty finding livelihoods, and children lacked access to education. Durable solutions seemed out of reach for these IDPs”.(ibid)

Chapter 5 discusses the politics of return of the Bru Displaced community from Mizoram to Tripura.

The status reports also list some recommendations to combat the crisis for the central and state governments and they are:-

For Government of India

•Develop a national IDP legislation and policy in accordance with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
•Provide oversight bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), with the right to assess the situation
•Ensure that state governments have the capacity to respond to internal displacement situations, and hold them accountable to the recommendations of the oversight bodies above.
•Ensure that the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India is not implemented in a way that could create or exacerbate incentives to violence and displacement. (pp6)

To All State Governments in North-East India

•Ensure that members of all communities have equal access to economic opportunities and political power, while being able to preserve their specific cultural identities and practices. This would obviate separate “homeland” demands and prevent grievances that could be exploited by those who aim to incite violence.

For details visit:-$file/India-SCR-Nov2011.pdf

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