2 September 2010 |

National and state authorities failing to protect IDPs

In 2009 and during the first half of 2010, at least 650,000 people in central India (Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal), north-east India (Assam, Mizoram-Tripura and Manipur), Jammu and Kashmir, Orissa and Gujarat were living in displacement due to armed conflict and ethnic or communal violence. An unknown number of displaced people were living in Indian cities.

In central India, armed conflict over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas was ongoing. In 2009, government security forces launched “Operation Green Hunt” against Naxalite insurgents. The conflict led to new displacement of more than 100,000 tribal people from Chhattisgarh state to Andhra Pradesh state between mid-2009 and mid-2010. Of those displaced prior to 2009, 20,000 were still staying in camps in Chhattisgarh and another 20,000 in Andhra Pradesh. In addition, 8,000 people were displaced within West Bengal state, with many of them staying in makeshift camps.

In north-east India’s Assam state, about 170,000 people who had been displaced by ethnic violence were living in camps in deplorable conditions. In 2009 and 2010, new violence in Assam displaced more than 16,000 Dimasas and Zeme Nagas and 4,000 Nepali-speakers. 30,000 Brus displaced from Mizoram state in 1997 and living in difficult conditions in camps in Tripura state had not been able to return, and new Mizo-Bru violence in November 2009 displaced another 5,000 Brus. In Manipur state, 1,500 to 2,500 people had to flee their homes in May 2009 due to counterinsurgency operations by security forces. In May 2010, clashes between security forces and Naga protesters displaced 500 Nagas from Manipur state to Nagaland state.

250,000 Kashmiri Pandits displaced from the Kashmir Valley since 1990 because of conflict between the Indian army and Muslim insurgents were still living in displacement in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in India. In addition, military border fencing separated 15,000 people from their land in Jammu and Kashmir state in 2009. In Orissa state, at least 10,000 people who had to flee their homes due to Hindu-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008 remained displaced, and in Gujarat state, 19,000 people who had been displaced by Hindu-Muslim violence in 2002 were still staying in camps.

The Government of India has no national policy to respond to internal displacement caused by armed conflict and ethnic or communal violence. The responsibility for protecting the displaced and providing assistance to them generally falls on state governments and district authorities. This has resulted in wide discrepancies between responses from one state to another and even from one situation to another within the same state.

It is very difficult to estimate the total number of conflict-induced IDPs in India as there is no central government agency responsible for monitoring the numbers of people displaced and returning, and humanitarian and human rights agencies have limited access to them. Those whose numbers are known are generally those living in camps and registered there. A conservative estimate of the total number of people displaced by conflict and violence would be at least 650,000 as of August 2010, but the real number, which would include displaced people outside of camps and dispersed in India’s cities, is likely to be significantly higher. 


Armed conflict and communal or ethnic violence have continued to cause internal displacement in India, and hundreds of thousands of people or more were living in displacement as of August 2010. In addition to those who were forced to flee in 2009 and during the first half of 2010, many who had been displaced earlier remained in displacement, as they had not been able to reach durable solutions.

It is very difficult to estimate the total number of conflict- and violence-induced IDPs in India as there is no central government agency responsible for monitoring the numbers of people displaced and returning, while humanitarian and human rights agencies have limited access to them. The displaced whose numbers are known are generally living in camps and registered there, and no numbers are known of IDPs outside camps. A conservative estimate of the total number of people displaced by conflict and violence would be at least 650,000.

In central India, armed conflict over land and mineral resources in tribal forest areas continued in 2009 and into 2010. Fighting between Naxalite (or Maoist) insurgents and government security forces supported by Salwa Judum militia and Special Police Officers affected more than 200 of India’s 626 districts in 20 of its 29 states in mid-2010. By March 2009, the conflict had displaced 350,000 members of tribal groups, and over 100,000 were believed to have been displaced between mid-2009 and mid-2010.

In north-east India, there were several situations of new or ongoing displacement. From March to July 2009, violence between Dimasa and Zeme Naga people in Assam’s North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao) district displaced more than 16,000 people of both communities. Most of them were displaced locally, but several hundred Zeme Nagas fled to Manipur state. All of them had reportedly returned by July 2010. In November 2009, 5,000 Bru people were forced to flee to Tripura state from their homes in Mizoram state when new Mizo-Bru violence broke out. They joined 30,000 Brus from Mizoram who have been living in protracted displacement in Tripura since being displaced by Mizo-Bru violence in 1997. 

In Manipur state in May 2009, between 1,500 and 2,500 people were displaced during counter-insurgency operations by security forces. In May 2010, 500 Naga people fled from Manipur to Nagaland state when security forces and Naga protesters clashed during an economic blockade of the state; however, they were able to return after a month. In the Assam-Meghalaya border region, 4,000 Nepali-speakers were displaced by ethnic violence, during which their community was targeted by members of the Khasi tribe.

In Assam state, camps in several districts were in 2010 still hosting more than 47,000 people displaced by ethnic violence between Bodos and Muslims as early as 1993 and between Bodos and Santhals in 1996 and 1998. Another 125,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were staying in camps in Assam after they had to flee their homes in 2008 due to Bodo-Muslim violence.

250,000 Kashmiri Pandits who had fled the Kashmir Valley from 1990 onwards remained in protracted displacement, with most of them staying in camps in Jammu and Delhi. In 2010, protests in the Kashmir Valley region against Indian rule continued to make their return unlikely. 

In Orissa state, 10,000 people remained displaced as a result of Hindu-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008. In Gujarat state, 19,000 IDPs remained following Hindu-Muslim violence in 2002.

Displaced people who left camps, including many who were forced to leave as authorities closed camps, such as in Gujarat and Orissa, have not necessarily been able to achieve durable solutions. For many, sustainable return to their areas of origin has not been possible due to safety concerns and because they have not received land and property compensation. In Orissa and Gujarat, for example, many perpetrators of the violence who had targeted the displaced communities have not yet been brought to justice. In areas affected by the Naxalite conflict, return has often been impossible because of ongoing armed conflict.

In the absence of government assistance for displaced people outside camps, those with the necessary resources have resettled elsewhere in India, including in urban areas. Others have stayed in the areas they were displaced to, but no information on their numbers or situation was available. Since many who left relief camps are unlikely to have found durable solutions, they should still be regarded as internally displaced. Many others remain uncounted since they have been living outside camps since their displacement. As a result, it can be assumed that significantly more than 650,000 people are currently displaced by conflict and violence in India.

Jammu and Kashmir 

The Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan dates back to 1947, the year of the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent and the independence of the two countries from British rule. Parts of the former princely state of Kashmir came under Indian rule, other parts under Pakistani or Chinese control. The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) consists of three provinces: Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh. In the Kashmir Valley region, two to three per cent of the population prior to their displacement were Hindu Pandits, in addition to a Sunni Muslim majority and Sikh and Christian minorities. In the Jammu region, Hindus are marginally in the majority, with Muslims making up almost half of the population (HRW, 1 July 1999; ICG, 21 November 2002, pp.1–2). 

Displacement of Kashmiri Pandits

In 1987, flawed elections led to a violent Muslim uprising in J&K. Some insurgent groups sought independence, while others wanted to join Pakistan (ICG, 21 November 2002, p.8). In the Kashmir Valley region, Islamist militants threatened, abducted and killed Pandits and demanded that they leave. From 1990 onwards, tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits fled to Jammu, Delhi and other areas in India for fear of targeted killings and abductions (ACCORD, January 2010, p.32; ICG, 3 June 2010, p.3). 

As of June 2010, 250,000 Pandits from the Kashmir Valley were living in displacement (Reuters AlertNet, 19 June 2010), with more than 37,000 families staying in Jammu, almost 20,000 in Delhi, and more than 1,000 in other parts of India (GoI-MHA, 2 March 2010, p.9). Fewer than 3,000 Kashmiri Pandits still live in the Kashmir Valley (NYT, 5 June 2010).

While the Government of India continues to consider the displaced Kashmiri Pandits not as internally displaced people (IDPs) but as “migrants” and the assistance provided to them has been found lacking, they have been treated considerably better than other groups of IDPs in India in terms of assistance and protection. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi have provided displaced Kashmiri Pandits with nine kilogrammes of rice and two kilogrammes of wheat flour per person and one kilogramme of sugar per family per month. In March 2010, monthly cash relief for Kashmiri Pandit IDPs was increased to Rs. 1,250 ($27) per person up to a total of Rs. 5,000 ($107) per family (IANS, 20 June 2010; ACCORD, January 2010, p.37; GoI-MHA, 2 March 2010, p.9; The Tribune, 4 April 2010). 

Displaced Kashmiri Pandits have stayed in one-room tenements, which have deteriorated for a number of years (ACCORD, January 2010, p.37), but some have been allocated more than 1,000 newly constructed two-room apartments in Jammu, out of more than 5,000 planned. In the Kashmir Valley, out of the planned total of 200 apartments, 120 have been constructed and allocated, including 31 to displaced Kashmiri Pandits living in camps in the Valley (GoI-MHA, 2 March 2010, p.9; India Today, 5 June 2010). 

In 1997, the Jammu and Kashmir state government enacted two laws to protect the properties that Kashmiri Pandit IDPs left behind in the Kashmir Valley and to limit “distress sales”. Nevertheless, IDPs have continued to be forced to sell their properties, often at low prices (ACHR, 21 January 2010, p.46; ACCORD, January 2010, p.34).

In April 2008, the Indian Prime Minister announced an incentive package worth Rs. 16.18 billion ($345 million) to encourage Kashmiri Pandit IDPs to return to the Kashmir Valley. The package includes Rs. 750,000 ($16,000) per family to build or buy a house or apartment, and other assistance in the areas of housing, transit accommodation in return areas, cash relief, scholarships for students, and livelihoods (GoI-MHA, 2 March 2010, p.10). 

By May 2010, 4,400 displaced Kashmiri Pandit families had applied for transit accommodation, but none of them had returned, most likely for security reasons. By March 2010, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir had created 3,000 positions for unemployed internally displaced Kashmiri Pandit youth willing to return to the Kashmir Valley (GoI-MHA, 2 March 2010, p.10; The Telegraph (India), 12 May 2010), and by July, 1,500 candidates had been selected to be posted there. When the Government of Jammu and Kashmir announced in July 2010 that it would suspend the posts for one month because of ongoing protests in the Valley, Pandit leaders demanded that the selected candidates be posted in Jammu until the situation calmed down, instead of prolonging their unemployment (Early Times, 13 July 2010).

In 2010, over 40 per cent of 180 displaced Kashmiri Pandits surveyed in camps in Jammu reported that they would prefer to return to the Kashmir Valley, with around 25 per cent favouring staying in Jammu and 15 per cent preferring to resettle elsewhere in India. Almost 18 per cent would return if a separate homeland for Pandits were created in Kashmir (Shekhawat, 16 August 2010, p.21).

Other displacement in Jammu and Kashmir

In 2009 in Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir state, 15,000 people living in 22 villages were separated from their agricultural land, education and livelihoods by a fence that the Indian army was erecting five kilometres away from the Line of Control (LoC) inside Indian-controlled territory. The villages of Chaprian, Kerni, Chamber Kinari, Kinari, Shahpur, Salotri and Digwar were particularly affected. People’s movement was also restricted, as they were not allowed to move about after 4pm. Their security was threatened by both the Indian and the Pakistani Armies, as well as by landmines planted by the Indian Army. They had not received compensation for the farmland they could no longer access. People from Gujjar and Bakerwal villages were not able to take their livestock for grazing since they had been cut off from their grazing land by the fence (The Hindu, 20 December 2009).

Displacement following Bodo-Muslim and Bodo-Santhal violence

In Assam, members of the Bodo tribe, which is among the tribes that settled earliest in Assam, have long fought against Bengali and Assamese settlement in their areas (SATP, July 2002). In 1993, violence between Bodos and immigrant Muslim settlers displaced 18,000 people in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts (MCRG, February 2007, p.7). In August 2008, violence between Bodos and immigrant Muslim settlers broke out in Routa Bagan village in Udalguri district when the All Assam Students’ Union organised a state-wide campaign to evict illegal immigrants. More than 14,000 people fled, taking shelter in nine relief camps. In October 2008, further violence in Udalguri, Darrang, Sonitpur and Chirang districts killed 55 people and displaced 212,000 from over 200 villages. Muslims as well as Bodos were displaced (NDTV, 17 January 2009; India Today, 10 October 2008; Frontline, 7 November 2008; The Telegraph (India), 21 January 200920 January 2009).

Armed Bodo groups have also engaged in a campaign of violence against other tribal groups within Bodo areas (SATP, July 2002). In 1996 and 1998, clashes between Bodos and Santhal tribal people (also referred to as Adivasis), who the Bodos regarded as “encroachers”, displaced over 500,000 people (The Telegraph (India), 10 August 2009). 

As of late 2009, more than 47,000 people displaced by Bodo-Muslim and Bodo-Santhal violence in the 1990s were staying in camps in Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Chirang districts of Assam state (ACHR, 6 June 2009; ACHR, 19 November 2009). In addition, almost 125,000 people displaced by Bodo-Muslim violence in 2008 were staying in camps in Darrang and Udalguri districts of Assam state (ACHR, 6 August 2009; AITPN, June 2009).

In several camps where people displaced in 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2008 were staying, ten-day food rations had to last for a month, and in one camp in Kokrajhar district, all children born after the last census of the camp in 1996 were excluded from food ration calculations. In one camp in Udalguri district, rice was distributed only to half of the families and rations were stopped in October 2008, during the sixth month after displacement. Access to drinking water was also limited, with few wells and hand pumps available and the water often contaminated (The Hindu, 21 April 2009; ACHR, June 2009). 

Shelter and sanitation were inadequate in these camps: IDPs stayed in small huts that did not provide much protection. They had to sleep on polythene sheets on the mud floor, and women lacked privacy (ACHR, June 2009). Girls and women faced an increased risk of sexual abuse and exploitation because there were no toilets in the camps and they had to defecate in the open field or in the bushes (ACHR, June 2009; The Hindu, 21 April 2009). Chicken pox, malaria, diarrhoea, jaundice and iodine deficiency were common, and there was limited access to health care services. There were no government-run crèches (anganwadi centres) in the camps (NCPCR, 24 September 2008; ACHR, June 2009; WFS, 30 October 2009).

Livelihood options were limited for these IDPs, who were working as agricultural labourers, day labourers in construction or domestic workers (ACHR, June 2009). The hostility of the local population made it difficult for some IDPs to find day jobs (WFS, 30 October 2009). Job cards under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) were not distributed to all IDPs, and not all of those who did receive job cards found a job (ACHR, June 2009). 

In camps in Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Chirang districts, families were forced to sell their young daughters into marriage due to poverty (WFS, 30 October 2009). Some women had to resort to prostitution in order to make a living (The Telegraph (India), 10 August 2009), and other IDPs were forced to let themselves be trafficked to other parts of India or to Bhutan as sex workers and child labourers (NCPCR, 24 September 2008; NCPCR, October 2008).

Children’s education was also jeopardised by displacement. There was a general lack of schools and teachers, and displaced children were denied access to local schools as these were already crowded (NCPCR, 24 September 2008). Some IDPs were running makeshift schools in camps, and the government had started some schools under a programme to provide universal elementary education. One school in Udalguri district had been occupied by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel who had been posted there to provide security for the IDPs (ACHR, June 2009).

Displacement following Dimasa-Zeme Naga violence

 Ethnic conflict between Dimasa and Zeme Naga people broke out in March 2009 in North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao) district of Assam state. By September, 539 houses in 50 villages belonging to both Dimasas and Zeme Nagas had been burnt down (InfoChange, 29 September 2009).

The violence led to the displacement of several thousand people from both communities. Most people were displaced within the district; by August 2009, more than 16,000 IDPs from both communities were staying in 41 camps there. Several hundred Zeme Naga people fled to Manipur state, and in August, 800 displaced Zeme Nagas were staying in camps in Tousem sub-division of Tamenglong district in Manipur state (InfoChange, 29 September 2009; Sangai Express, 8 July 2009; ANI, 22 April 2009; IFP, 4 April 2009; DIPR N.C. Hills, 14 August 2009).

The Assam state government provided food assistance to the IDPs (DIPR N.C. Hills, 14 August 2009). However, some children only received one meal per day, and several were malnourished. There was no access to safe drinking water in the camps, and several children suffered from fever and colds as well as scabies, boils and skin infections. There were noanganwadi centres in the camps (NCPCR, 8 August 2009; NCPCR, 24 September 2008; Indian Express, 23 August 2009; Assam Tribune, 23 August 2009). Adolescent girls were forced to stay apart from their families, with relatives outside camps, as there was a lack of safety and privacy in the camps. In addition, some girls were harassed and abused by the army and the police because of alleged links with armed insurgent groups (NCPCR, 8 August 2009).

In August 2009, 6,000 displaced children had been out of school for six months. The use of local schools as camps and their occupation by the armed forces interrupted local children’s education, while schools in the areas where IDPs were staying lacked facilities such as toilets, as well as books, stationary items and school uniforms (NCPCR, 8 August 2009; Indian Express, 23 August 2009; Assam Tribune, 23 August 2009).

According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the camps had been closed and all IDPs had returned to their villages by July 2010 (NHRC, 5 July 2010). 


Displacement following Khasi-Gorkha (Nepali) violence

In May 2010, communal violence between Khasis and Nepali-speakers arose over a contested village on the border between Assam state and Meghalaya state, which is under Assamese authority but claimed by Meghalaya (Himal South Asian, “Dakhar still”, July 2010; Republica, 24 May 2010). The violence displaced at least 4,000 Nepali-speakers in Meghalaya state and the Assam-Meghalaya border region. 3,000 of them fled to stay in camps in Jayanti in Assam state, 1,000 to Purdung in Meghalaya, and more than 200 to Nepal. Some also fled to Indian cities (Himal South Asian, “Dakhar still”, July 2010; Nepalnews, 26 May 2010; Nepalnews, 21 May 2010; Republica, 24 May 2010).


Blockade and displacement of Naga people

In March 2010, the Manipur state government announced elections to the district councils in the six autonomous hills districts. Naga people and non-Naga groups based in the hills districts were opposed to these elections, and on 11 April, the All Naga Student Association Manipur (ANSAM) started an economic blockade of national highways 39 and 53, the main supply routes into Manipur. The blockade created a humanitarian crisis in the state, including through an acute shortage of fuel and other petroleum products, medical supplies, and food items (Himal South Asian, “After 69 days”, July 2010; Himal South Asian, “Unravelling the Manipur tangle”, July 2010; IBNS, 10 May 2010; AHRC, 11 June 2010; IDSA, 10 June 2010).

In April 2010, tensions rose when the leader of a Naga armed group was prevented by the Manipur government from entering the state. During Naga protests in the town of Mao in Senapati district, security forces shot and killed two students and injured more than 80 people. About 500 Nagas from Mao, mostly women and children, fled to Nagaland state. They returned to their homes in Manipur in June (BBC News, 6 May 2010; The Telegraph (India), 7 June 2010; UCANews, 10 June 2010; HRA and AHRC, 24 May 2010; AHRC, 11 June 2010). 

Other displacement in Manipur

In April 2009, between 1,500 and 2,500 villagers were displaced from the area surrounding Loktak Lake in Bishnupur district of Manipur state. They were forced to flee when the Indian Army, the paramilitary Assam Rifles and the police launched “Operation Summer Storm” against insurgents. After the villagers had left, members of the security forces moved into their houses. The villagers took shelter in camps in Ithai Khunou, Nognmaikhong, Laphupat Tera, Moirang and Ethai. After protests by the displaced, the Bishnupur district administration provided them with food and other basic necessities. “Operation Summer Storm” was concluded on 20 April 2009, but it remained unclear whether the displaced were able to return to their homes (The Telegraph (India), 20 April 2009; E-Pao Net, 20 April 2009). 


Violence between members of the majority Mizo and minority Bru (or Reang) communities in Mizoram state from 15 October 1997 onwards forced about 30,000 Brus to flee from Mizoram state to Tripura state. They have since been staying in six camps set up by the Tripura state government in Kanchanpur in North Tripura district (AITPN, 20 December 2007). 

In 2008, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) criticised the conditions in the camps in Tripura. It reported a lack of health care and immunisation services, clean water supplies, and schools. In addition, food rations were insufficient, there was no safe drinking water, and sanitation facilities were poor (NCPCR, October 2008, p.4). The birth of children in the camps was not registered, and they therefore did not receive food rations for long periods. More than 7,200 Bru children living in IDP camps in Tripura who had not been registered and did not receive rations as of September 2008 were finally registered in March 2009, following an intervention by the NCPCR. However, more than 2,700 displaced children born afterwards had not been registered as of December 2009 (AITPN, September 2008; ACHR, 12 December 2009AITPN, 12 December 2009). 

In November 2009, a Mizo youth was killed by members of the hitherto unknown “Bru Revolutionary Union” (BRU). The ensuing violence displaced another 5,000 Brus to Tripura state (The Telegraph, India, 17 November 2009; ACHR, 20 November 2009). 

According to the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), the killing of the Mizo youth, even if it may not have been carried out with that intention, was nevertheless used to stall the return process of the Brus displaced in 1997 (ACHR, 21 January 2010, p.2). The Mizoram state government, which had previously been opposed to the return of the displaced Bru people, declared that the return process would start in November 2009, but the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) stated that the necessary conditions for return, including security, were not yet in place (ACHR, 21 January 2010, pp.1–3, 14). The MBDPF, the Mizoram government and the Tripura government further disagreed over the number of displaced Brus in Tripura (AITPN, 20 December 2007, p.2). 

In late May 2010, more than 1,000 Brus displaced to Tripura in 2009 returned to Mizoram (ACHR, 10 August 2010). According to a census of camp residents carried out by the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), more than 31,000 IDPs from Mizoram remained in the camps as of August 2010. More than 29,000 among them had been displaced in 1997 and more than 2,000 in 2009 (PTI, 15 August 2010).

Central India (Naxalite conflict) 

The Naxalite movement originated in a peasant uprising in the village of Naxalbari in India’s West Bengal state in 1967, which was initiated by a splinter group of India’s mainstream Communist Party. The movement grew quickly and attracted landless labourers and student intellectuals. In the 1970s, a government crackdown broke the group into myriad feuding factions. On 14 October 2004, the two largest splinter groups of the original Naxalite movement merged to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (or CPI (Maoist)) (HRW, 9 December 2009, p.23; GoI – MHA, 1 June 2009, p.16).

The CPI (Maoist), which the Government of India banned in June 2009 (ISN, 29 June 2009), claims to fight for the rights of the poor and marginalised in India, and its declared aim is to overthrow the current political system in India and to create a new social order in which all of India’s citizens have equal access to the country’s resources. Its activities include armed attacks against the Indian state, including on infrastructure such as railways, roads, power and communications installations. It is estimated to include from 10,000 to 20,000 armed fighters (HRW, 9 December 2009, p.23; GoI–MHA, 1 June 2009, p.16; Economist.com, 22 July 2010).

The Naxalite conflict has so far affected more than 200 of India’s 626 districts (Economist.com, 22 July 2010) in 20 of its 29 states (AFP, 15 May 2010). These areas largely overlap with the Dandakaranya forest covering parts of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, where large deposits of mineral resources such as bauxite, iron ore and uranium are located and where millions of low-caste Adivasis (tribal people) live. The latter have suffered from chronic famine and have had no access to health care, education or judicial procedures (Guardian (UK), 30 October 2009). 

Both the Naxalites and government security forces, with their allied militia Salwa Judum and Special Police Officers, have been guilty of human rights violations, including child recruitment (HRW, 14 July 2008, p.25; IHT, 22 May 2008; HRW, 5 September 2008, p.39). Schools have been attacked by Naxalites and occupied by police (HRW, 9 December 2009).

The Naxalites have been responsible for human rights abuses including abduction, hostage-taking, torture, and extra-judicial killings, including after trial by “people’s courts” (ACHR, 29 May 2009, pp. 34–37). Their policy to forcibly recruit one person from each Adivasi family has often pitted members of the same family against each other (ACHR, 17 March 2006, p.3).

The Salwa Judum, whose name means “peace hunt” (GoI–MRD, 1 March 2009, p.161), a vigilante force supported by government security forces, was formally set up in 2005 (Guardian (UK), 30 October 2009). Government security forces joined Salwa Judum members on village raids to identify and remove suspected Naxalite sympathisers. They raided hundreds of villages in Chhattisgarh state’s Dantewada and Bijapur districts, where tribal communities make up 79 per cent of the population, and used threats, beatings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, killings and burning of villages to force residents to support the Salwa Judum (HRW, 14 July 2008, p.7). Thousands of villagers were forcibly relocated to government-run Salwa Judum camps near police stations or paramilitary police camps (HRW, 14 July 2008, p.7) to prevent the Naxalites from recruiting them (TIME Magazine, 29 May 2008). Once in camps, villagers were subjected to attacks by the Naxalites (NHRC, November 2008, p.107).

In 2009, the Government of India initiated “Operation Green Hunt” against the Naxalites in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, the states worst affected by the conflict (Economist.com, 22 July 2010). Ostensibly aimed at suppressing the rebellion, some have argued that its real aim is to “turn […] the area into a war zone” to force the low-caste tribal people off their mineral-rich land to make way for large-scale commercial exploitation of natural resources by private companies (Asia Times, 26 May 2010). Since 2005, the Government of India has signed several hundred memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with companies on resource exploitation and large-scale infrastructure projects such as power plants, dams and steel factories (Guardian (UK), 30 October 2009). Between 1999 and 2009, 160,000 people were estimated to have been displaced in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa because of development projects (Tehelka, 11 July 2009). 

As of August 2010, the Government of India was considering the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2010, which would oblige mining companies “to allot free shares equal to 26% of a project’s equity to the local population affected by the mining project”. The proposed legislation met with strong opposition from mining companies (Asia Times, 4 August 2010).

Up to 450,000 people are estimated to have been internally displaced by the Naxalite conflict since 2005 (HRW, 14 July 2008, p.8; GoI–MRD, 1 March 2009, p.161; Deccan Chronicle, 12 June 2010). Many have hidden under false names in order to avoid being identified (HRW, 14 July 2008, p.83). At the end of 2009, 40,000 tribal Adivasis were estimated to be living in displacement in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, with 20,000 living in camps in Chhattisgarh and 20,000 scattered across Andhra Pradesh. In addition, 8,000 Adivasis reportedly lived in displacement in West Bengal, some of them in makeshift camps (AI, 27 May 2010, p.167).

In the first half of 2010, almost 800 people had been killed in the Naxalite conflict, which is almost as many as in the whole year of 2009 (Economist.com, 22 July 2010). More than 100,000 were believed to have been displaced by the Naxalite conflict between mid-2009 and mid-2010 (Deccan Chronicle, 12 June 2010). 

IDPs staying in camps in Chhattisgarh had limited access to food (HRW, 14 July 2008, pp.74–75), and only some were receiving free rations (NHRC, November 2008, p.106). They also lacked shelter, sanitation facilities, access to health care services, and access to education (HRW, 14 July 2008, pp.72–73; NHRC, November 2008, pp. 105, 107; NCPCR, 27 January 2009, pp.2–5). In January 2009, 40,000 children were out of school in the district, and some schools were occupied by members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which led to increased bombing of these schools by Naxalite insurgents (NCPCR, 27 January 2009, pp.2–4). Few livelihood opportunities were available to these IDPs (NHRC, November 2008, pp.105–106). In one area, the NREGA was implemented as late as 2010 (Express Buzz, 16 May 2010). 

In Andhra Pradesh, IDPs from Chhattisgarh had limited access to food and drinking water. As of July 2009, only ten per cent of the IDPs had ration cards, and malnourishment was a problem (Deccan Chronicle, 12 June 2010; NCPCR, 3 March 2010, p.2; Tehelka, 11 July 2009). They were regularly evicted from their makeshift hamlets by police or forest officials, who beat them up, burned their huts and destroyed their belongings. Some were relocated by force to other areas, often in close proximity to the Chhattisgarh border, without being consulted and without receiving adequate alternative housing (HRW, 14 July 2008, pp.85, 88, 91–92; Tehelka, 11 July 2009; Deccan Chronicle, 12 June 2010).

According to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), internally displaced children from Chhattisgarh were not being admitted to schools in Andhra Pradesh because they did not have school-leaving certificates and did not understand Telugu, which was the language of instruction in Andhra Pradesh (The Tribune, 2 April 2008). As of July 2009, 1,000 to 1,500 displaced children were out of school, and there were only four Residential Bridge Courses (RBCs) offered, which was insufficient to cater to the needs of all the displaced children who had missed out on schooling (NCPCR, 24 July 2009, p.2).


Violence between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 led to the deaths of more than 2,000 and the displacement of up to 250,000 people (CCT vol. II, 24 October 2002, pp.60, 122). As of December 2009, almost eight years after the violence, just over 19,000 IDPs were still living in 86 “relief colonies” (GoI, 1 December 2009, p.6), and it was unknown whether displaced people living elsewhere had reached durable solutions.

The violence began in February 2002 after 58 Hindu pilgrims had been killed in a fire on a train, which had allegedly been started by a Muslim mob (HRW, 29 April 2002, p.4). The deaths sparked off intense violence in more than 150 towns and almost 1,000 villages, with most victims being from the minority Muslim community (The Independent, 7 December 2007). Hindus also suffered from the violence, particularly economically, with thousands of small Hindu-owned businesses closing down during the violence (HRW, 30 June 2003). 

The violence was reportedly orchestrated by Hindu right-wing organisations, and officials of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as members of the police were allegedly complicit, exploiting existing communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims (Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, 26 January 2009, p.14; HRW, 29 April 2002, p.4; Tehelka, 12 June 2010). As of mid-2010, criminal investigations by the Supreme Court of India against the perpetrators had been ongoing since 2009 (CJP, 19 July 2010, p.2). 

Immediately after their displacement, many IDPs were forced to take shelter in about 100 makeshift camps set up across the state, with little support from the government. The task of providing relief and assistance was largely taken on by the Muslim community and non-governmental groups (HRW, 29 April 2002, p.52). By the end of October 2002, the government had closed most of the camps, forcing some displaced families back into neighbourhoods where their attackers still lived and where they faced threats to their physical security (HRW, 30 June 2003).

Religious groups and civil society organisations attempted to improve IDPs’ situation by building houses and offering livelihoods assistance. They built “relief colonies” for displaced families on Muslim-owned land all over the state. However, sanitation facilities, drainage and water supply were poor. Residents of colonies near rubbish dumps had to put up with contaminated ground water, and gastro-intestinal and other diseases were common (Crisis States Research Centre, March 2010, pp.8–9).

IDPs in relief colonies were constantly threatened by evictions, as the land that their dwellings had been constructed on had been declared agricultural land by the government. The residents themselves had neither land nor property titles (Crisis States Research Centre, March 2010, p.8; CJP, 19 July 2010, p.16).

Relief colonies were not connected to the city centres, as there were no paved roads and no transportation facilities, meaning that IDPs had little access to livelihoods, schools and health care services. In addition, the IDPs and the religious organisations providing the bulk of the aid to them had different priorities, with the latter preferring the construction of mosques to health clinics and madrasas or Islamic religious schools to secular schools (Crisis States Research Centre, March 2010, pp.8, 12; CJP, 19 July 2010, p.16).

A committee appointed by the Supreme Court reported in June 2007 that the economic conditions of the IDPs were dire, with their livelihoods having ended since the 2002 riots and their former clients unwilling to use their services (Infochange News and Features, July 2008). Many IDPs were not able to find work in their vocations during displacement and worked as vendors, rickshaw pullers or domestic help (Crisis States Research Centre, March 2010, p.10). 

Some displaced children had dropped out of school and worked as labourers as their families could not afford the transport to the nearest schools. Many families in the relief colonies preferred not to send their daughters to schools outside the neighbourhood because during the 2002 violence Muslim girls were sexually abused. Consequently, a generation of displaced Muslim children are growing up less educated than their parents (Crisis States Research Centre, March 2010, p.9).


Communal violence in Kandhamal district in Orissa state in eastern India displaced thousands of people in 2007 and 2008. There have been long-standing tensions between Hindus and Christians in the state over the issue of religion conversion. Hindu extremists have claimed that Christian priests have bribed poor tribal and low-caste Hindus to convert to Christianity, while Christian groups have maintained that lower-caste Hindus have willingly converted to escape a stratified and oppressive caste system. The situation is particularly sensitive in rural Kandhamal district where an estimated 150,000 Christians make up 23 per cent of the population. There are 500,000 Christians in the state of Orissa, according to estimates by Christian groups (Reuters, 27 August 2008; AsiaNews, 11 January 2008). 

In December 2007, villagers in Kandhamal district had to flee their homes because of violence between Hindus and Christians during an argument over Christmas celebrations (HRW, 27 December 2007). 1,200 people took shelter in four camps in the district, while others fled to the forests (Zee News, 30 December 2007).

In August 2008, violence broke out again between the two communities after the killing of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, a Hindu spiritual leader who had opposed the spread of Christianity in the state. A CPI (Maoist) leader claimed that members of his group had killed the Swami, but right-wing Hindu groups including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was part of Orissa’s coalition government, blamed the Christians (PUCL and KSG, April 2009, p.9). 

Mobs ransacked churches, schools, health clinics and houses belonging to Christians. The police did not intervene (NYT, 13 October 2008; Frontline, 25 October 2008; HRLN, 17 December 2008, p.2). The violence lasted for more than two months and affected not only Kandhamal district, but also Gajapati, Koraput, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Kalahandi, Rayagada, Sundargarh, Khurdha and Balasore districts. The majority of people affected were Christians (HRLN, 17 December 2008, p.1; PUCL and KSG, April 2009, pp.9, 42). In Kandhamal district, up to 75 people were killed, 4,500 homes burned down, and 100 churches destroyed (Guardian (UK), 23 November 2009; Times of India, 5 October 2008).

Until September 2008, the Orissa government denied politicians, human rights organisations and humanitarian organisations access to Kandhamal district, while allowing the entry of media as well as leaders of the BJP and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a right-wing Hindu organisation (PUCL and KSG, April 2009, p.10).

Estimates of the number of people displaced by the violence range from over 20,000 (IANS, 29 October 2008) to at least 50,000 (Times of India, 5 October 2008; PUCL and KSG, April 2009, p.42; Guardian (UK), 23 November 2009). It is estimated that between 23,000 and more than 25,000 people took shelter in 19 relief camps in Kandhamal district and in camps in the cities of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar (Times of India, 5 October 2008; Frontline, 25 October 2008; PUCL and KSG, April 2009, p.8). Thousands fled into the jungle, where there was no shelter or security, and little access to food and fresh water. Others were taken in by relatives in and outside of Orissa state (NYT, 29 August 2008; Guardian (UK), 31 August 2008; PUCL and KSG, April 2009, p.18).

Conditions in the camps were described as poor, with IDPs sleeping on plastic mats on the ground, receiving limited food rations and inadequate medical care (IANS, 25 October 2008). Security in the camps concerned observers. For example, three crude bombs exploded in Udayagiri camp on 28 August 2008. As of mid-November 2008, the total number of IDPs in the camps had shrunk to 10,000, not because many had returned, but because they had moved into the forests or to urban areas or taken shelter with relatives in other states, where they felt safer (SACW, 25 September 2008; IANS, 18 November 2008; HRLN, 17 December 2008, p.11; PUCL and KSG, April 2009, p.12). 

Hindu groups reportedly put pressure on displaced Christians to convert to Hinduism as a condition of return to their villages (The Hindu, 1 October 2008; NYT, 13 October 2008). Some returned and converted, after being informed that their Hindu neighbours would protect them and they would be able to regain their property if they embraced Hinduism (Hindustan Times, 10 October 2008). Additional conditions for return included agreeing to have no access to the forest or to water from the village well (Tehelka, 18 April 2009). Some who had converted to Hinduism upon return were nevertheless attacked and killed (Frontline, 25 October 2008).

In the run-up to the national and state assembly elections in April 2009, the Kandhamal district authorities started closing the official relief camps. As of March 2009, only 3,000 people were still staying in official camps, and the last camp was closed on 25 August 2009, in spite of the fact that conditions for sustainable return were not in place (CJP, 25 March 2009; Kandhamal District Administration, 10 March 2010, p.1).

By the end of 2009, people were still living in displacement in unofficial makeshift camps, and many had been displaced multiple times, sometimes because authorities moved them to another camp or because their camp was closed (Guardian (UK), 23 November 2009). The government provided assistance to these IDPs, but it was largely insufficient (CSW, May 2010, p.4). Insecurity prevailed in IDPs’ villages of origin in 2010, and many perpetrators of the violence had not been brought to justice, with IDPs regarding justice as a precondition for safe return (Tehelka, 18 April 2009 and 27 March 2010; CSW, May 2010, p.22). 

Based on available sources, it can be estimated that at least 10,000 people are still living in displacement due to the violence as of mid-2010 (CSW, May 2010, p.20; IANS, 29 October 2008 and PUCL and KSG, April 2009, pp.8, 42).

National response 

The Indian government has no national policy, legislation or other mechanisms to respond to internal displacement caused by armed conflict and ethnic or communal violence. The Government of India’s proposed Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2009 includes a reference to those displaced by communal violence. However, it is not in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, notably concerning IDPs’ rights to education and durable solutions (CSW, May 2010, p.18). 

The responsibility for assisting and protecting IDPs has frequently been delegated to state governments and district authorities. The lack of a national policy has allowed representatives of certain states to claim that they are powerless to make decisions to protect and assist displaced people. While there is certainly a need for a national policy, its absence does not absolve state governments from their responsibilities towards IDPs (HRW, 14 July 2008, p.69). 

Where state- and district-level authorities do provide assistance, it remains ad-hoc and varied. Displaced Kashmiri Pandits are provided with far more support than the other groups displaced by conflict or violence. For example, displaced Kashmiri Pandits receive monthly cash relief of Rs. 1,250 ($27) per person, while an adult Bru IDP in Tripura state receives only Rs. 87 ($2) per month and displaced Bru children receive half that amount (ACHR, 1 August 2008, p.142; The Tribune, 4 April 2010).

The state government of Assam has provided different groups of IDPs with different levels of assistance, allegedly along ethnic lines. For example, it has provided people displaced from “revenue villages” (where inhabitants have land and property titles) with grants of Rs. 10,000 ($213). People displaced from non-surveyed areas, on the other hand, have not received grants at all. Yet others received grants of only Rs. 1,500 ($32) (The Telegraph (India), 10 August 2009).

State response has been particularly problematic in Gujarat, where the authorities have been accused of planning and instigating the violence against the Muslim population in 2002 (Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, 26 January 2009, p.14; Tehelka, 12 June 2010). There, the state government had closed the official camps by October 2002 and did not even acknowledge the continuing displacement until five years after the violence (HRW, 30 June 2003; Himal South Asian, 2 October 2007). 

Moreover, the Gujarat state government provided far less assistance to people displaced by the 2002 violence than to people displaced by an earthquake in Gujarat in 2001 (MCRG, October 2005, p.66). IDPs staying in relief colonies were constantly threatened by evictions, as they had no land or property titles (Crisis States Research Centre, March 2010, p.8; CJP, 19 July 2010, p.16).

In Orissa state, the police reportedly did nothing to prevent violence in Kandhamal district and subsequent displacement in 2007 and 2008 (HRLN, 17 December 2008, p.2). In 2008, authorities prevented humanitarian organisations from entering the district during the first ten days after the beginning of the violence (PUCL and KSG, April 2009, p.10). Subsequently, government assistance to displaced Christians in camps was largely insufficient, and many people soon left the camps because they did not feel that the authorities protected them there (HRLN, 17 December 2008, p.11; CSW, May 2010, p.4). 

By late August 2009, the Orissa state government had closed the camps (CJP, 25 March 2009; Kandhamal District Administration, 10 March 2010, p.1). However, conditions were not suitable for sustainable return, as many perpetrators had not been brought to justice and were still at large (Tehelka, 18 April 2009 and 27 March 2010; CSW, May 2010, p.22). IDPs who did return were often forced to convert to Hinduism by extremist Hindu groups, with the authorities doing nothing to protect their freedom of religion (Tehelka, 18 April 2009).

State response has also been complicated in the case of Chhattisgarh: thousands of people were forcibly relocated to camps by state security forces and the Salwa Judum, but the state government had neither a policy for facilitating camp residents’ safe return to their villages nor a plan to offer them other adequate long-term settlement options (HRW, 14 July 2008, p.71). 

Despite the lack of a national policy, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has intervened in conflict-related displacement issues related to Gujarat and to Jammu and Kashmir. It has recommended that in order to protect the basic human rights of displaced people, human rights guarantees for the IDPs in India should be incorporated in appropriate legislation (NHRC, 24 March 2008). 

The National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) has made visits to IDP camps and has been advocating towards district and state authorities on behalf of internally displaced children and IDPs in general. It focused on Mizoram-Tripura in 2008 (AITPN, September 2008), Chhattisgarh in 2008 and 2009 (NCPCR, August 2008 and 27 January 2009), Andhra Pradesh in 2009 and 2010 (NCPCR, 24 July 2009; The Hindu, 18 December 2009; NCPCR, 3 March 2010) and Orissa in 2009 (NCPCR, January 2009, p.9). Following a recommendation by the NCPCR, authorities in Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh state began monitoring the needs of displaced children from Chhattisgarh in November 2009. Their main objective was immunisation of the children (Times of India, 26 November 2009).

The Government of India does not recognise the forcibly displaced status of groups such as the Kashmiri Pandits, referring to them not as IDPs but as “migrants”. Kashmiri Pandit IDP groups have continued to demand acknowledgement of their status from the central government, arguing that the “migrant” label implies that the Kashmiri Pandits had a choice in leaving the Kashmir Valley, and hinders, for example, their attemps to get government jobs (IANS, 20 June 2010; IANS, 31 October 2008).

In August 2010, the Government of India announced that it would re-introduce the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill and the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, which both focus on involuntary displacement due to development projects. The two Bills had been introduced in 2007 and passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament) in February 2009, but had not been introduced in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) (Indian Express, 18 August 2010; The Hindu, 12 May 2010). The Bills recognise that development activities may lead to involuntary displacement, but have been criticised for the fact that they would create a framework in which the response to displacement remains at the discretion of the government, denying IDPs the chance to have their rights enforced (India Today, 24 July 2009; India Together, 4 January 2008).

International responses 

International humanitarian agencies have not usually had access to displaced populations in conflict zones of India, and even in some areas where permission has been granted, international staff have been denied entry. In north-east India, for example, international staff who are able to obtain entry may be monitored and have their movements restricted (Reuters AlertNet, 22 October 2008). 

The ICRC and a few international NGOs, such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Lutheran World Service (LWS), have assisted IDPs in some states. MSF has provided healthcare to IDPs in camps in Chhattisgarh and to those who fled to Andhra Pradesh, and it has run four clinics in violence-affected Manipur (MSF, 27 July 2010, p.46). LWS has worked in Assam, setting up drinking water projects in IDP camps, providing returnees with farming material, and employing violence-affected villagers in road construction (The Telegraph (India), 10 August 2009).

The ICRC, which assisted IDPs in Jammu in 2002, has had other offers to assist IDPs rejected by Indian authorities, as in Gujarat in 2002 (ICRC, 31 December 2002, p.186). The organisation became involved in assisting the IDPs in Assam following the violence between Bodo and Muslim communities in October 2008. In 2009, it provided more than 17,000 of these IDPs with essential household items and implemented water, sanitation and habitat projects for more than 2,000 IDPs (ICRC, 19 May 2010, p.251). The ICRC also carried out humanitarian needs assessments of violence-affected people in Assam and Nagaland as well as in Naxalite conflict areas and increased its support to the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) branches there (ICRC, 25 September 2009).