India faces human rights crisis from Jammu and Kashmir in the North to Kerala in the South, from Gujarat in the West to Arunachal Pradesh in the East. Across the country, there are diverse civil society groups focusing on human rights violations by the security forces and the armed opposition groups on their own communities or respective States.
India Human Rights Report 2006, covering the events from 1 January to 31 December 2005, reports on human rights violations in 27 States of India. It is the only such report which provides State-wise comprehensive information on human rights violations in India.
India faces many human rights challenges - from the lack of access to justice from the judiciary and quasi-judicial bodies like National Human Rights Commission to Kangaroo justice delivered by the cultural courts, Panchayats, and socalled People's Court, the Jana Adalats of the Maoists. The catalogue of human rights violations is long - arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, custodial death, disproportionate use of fire-arms, communal riots, rape, mis-use of national security laws, atrocities against the Adivasis and the Dalits, violations of the prisoner's rights. Sovereign immunity of the State and impunity provided to the security forces create a vicious cycle of human rights violations in India. The armed opposition groups too have seldom been held accountable for violations of international humanitarian laws.
Need for protecting the conflict induced IDPs:
Among the victims who are alive, conflict induced internally displaced persons (IDP) remain one of the most vulnerable groups. These refugees in their own country are often deprived of the basic amenities. The IDPs are often the numeric minorities and are targeted because of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs in a country which was born out of one of the bloodiest communal riots of the 20th century.
In November 2005, I visited the IDP camps in Karbi Anglong district of Assam. About 44,000 indigenous Karbis and Dimasas were displaced in a conflict which claimed over 90 lives. Away from the attention of the national media, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi stated that such macabre killings were bound to happen in the jungles.
The conditions of the displaced Karbis and Dimasas were sub-human. The Oxford English School at Manja, Diphu, district headquarters of Karbi Anglong, housed over 2,000 displaced persons. There was no adequate space to even stand up if it rained. The majority of the IDPs were forced to sleep in the open. The government provided rice and dal but not firewood to prepare food. Nor had the displaced persons been given any vegetable or cash dole. Venturing out of the relief camps to collect fire-wood or vegetables exposed the IDPs to violations of their rights especially the right to life. Of the 44,071 camp inmates, 17,971 or an overwhelming 40.78 per cent were listed as minors by the government. Yet, there was no special provision for children. Nor was there any special arrangement for 200 women who were in advanced stage of pregnancy. For 32,871 IDPs, the government provided only 8,504 plates.
Yet, the Karbi and Dimasa IDPs were the lucky ones as they soon started returning to their villages though without modicum of rehabilitation from the government of Assam.
About 55,476 Kashmiri Pandit families remained displaced in Jammu and Delhi since 1990s. The government of India and the State government of Jammu and Kashmir regularly announced various schemes to encourage their return but most of the Kashmiri Pandits remained skeptic due to security concerns.
About 200,000 Adivasis, Bodos and Muslims remained displaced in Bodoland areas of Assam since 1994. The killings and displacement started following the signing of the Bodoland Accord in February 1993 and creation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council. Another Accord was signed with the Bodoland Liberation Tigers Force in February 2003 and Bodoland Territorial Council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India was created. But these displaced persons were not rehabilitated so far.
About 35,000 Brus/Reangs were displaced from Mizoram and sought shelter in Tripura in October 1997. The National Human Rights Commission after hearing all the parties issued directions to the State government of Mizoram to take back the Reangs in November 1999. The Election Commission of India also ensured the right to franchise of eligible Brus in the assembly and parliamentary elections held in Mizoram. Most importantly, on 26 April 2005, Mizoram government signed a 10-point Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF). Pursuant to the MoU, the BNLF formally surrendered their arms to the Mizoram police at Tuipuibari Transit Camp in western Mizoram on 25 July 2005. Yet, not a single Bru was taken back by the end of 2005.
Thousands of others who had been displaced because of conflicts were not provided shelter or housed in camps. Over 45,000 border migrants living along the Line of Actual Control and displaced following the war in Kargil in 1999 had been virtually disowned by the government Jammu and Kashmir and government of India, and were not provided any assistance.
Even for those relatively fortunate ones i.e. those who were housed in government managed camps, the conditions had been abominable. In the absence of any policy on the IDPs, different groups of IDPs received different treatment depending on their proximity to the authorities in New Delhi. While a displaced Kashmiri Pandit received Rs 750 per month, an adult Bru received only Rs. 2.67 paise a day i.e. Rs 80 per month. Even the conditions of the Kashmiri Pandits have been equally deplorable.
Many IDPs have been living in camps for decades without any prospects for return. It has taken toll on the mental health of the IDPs. Majority of the IDPs could not return simply because of the failure of the State. While the Kashmiri Pandits fear attacks by the armed opposition groups, the State government of Assam took no visible steps to rehabilitate the IDPs in Bodoland areas. The state government of Mizoram simply refuses to take back the Brus on frivolous grounds to pursue its policy of establishing monolithic Mizoram consisting of only the majority ethnic Mizos. Yet, the Chhattisgarh government extended official support to the Salwa Judum campaign - an anti-Naxalite movement - started in June 2005 and forcibly displaced thousands of people, mainly Adivasis, into the government managed camps in South Baster. With more than half of the States of India being afflicted by low intensity armed conflicts, the population of the conflict induced IDPs will only grow.
A country which witnessed one of the largest displacement of people in human history because of conflict during its birth in 1947 has no policy for the conflict induced IDPs. Therefore, whenever communal riots or pogroms took place whether in Gujarat or Manipur, conflict induced displaced persons were not provided adequate protection, security and/or basic humanitarian assistance. It all depended on the whims of the government of the day.
The conflict induced IDPs are different from development induced IDPs. The rights of the conflict induced IDPs are not about prolonging any conflict as many tend to suggest. Under international humanitarian laws, it implies right to physical safety, security and liberty and access to basic humanitarian services - adequate housing, food, health care, education and protection. At national level, it is about the duty of the State to protect its citizens and the right of the citizens to enjoy the right to life with dignity. Access to equal standard of basic humanitarian services that ensure human dignity is fundamental.
India must develop a policy for the conflict induced IDPs.