Last Updated: Wednesday, 01 October 2014, 08:57 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - India

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - India, 19 April 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f97fb601e.html [accessed 1 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Quick facts
Number of IDPsAt least 506,000
Percentage of total populationLess than 0.1%
Start of current displacement situation1990
Peak number of IDPs (Year)Undetermined
New displacementAt least 53,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index134

In 2011 as in previous years, there were in India several distinct ongoing situations of internal displacement caused by armed conflict and ethnic or communal violence. In Jammu and Kashmir, people remained displaced, as they had since 1990 due to separatist violence targeting the Hindu minority.

In the north-eastern states, there were long-term IDPs who had fled conflicts between government forces and non-state armed groups, and also violence between ethnic groups, during the 1990s. Other IDPs in these states had been displaced by more recent inter-ethnic violence.

In central India, displacement has been caused since 2005 by armed conflicts over land and mineral resources which pitted government forces and allied militias against Maoist insurgents. People had also fled communal violence between the majority Hindu populations and Muslim and Christian minorities in Gujarat in 2002, and in Orissa in 2007 and 2008.

In 2011, new displacement continued. At least 50,000 people were forced to flee their homes early in the year due to interethnic violence between Rabha and Garo people in the north-eastern states of Assam and Meghalaya. In November, more than 3,000 people were forcibly evicted from floating islands on Loktak Lake in Manipur by local authorities, allegedly as a counter-insurgency measure. In central India, the armed conflict continued, probably leading to new displacement.

It is estimated that at least 506,000 people were living in displacement at the end of 2011 due to these conflicts and violence. This is a very conservative estimate, as it includes only identified IDPs living in camps. The majority of IDPs in India, however, were believed to be living outside camps, with large numbers dispersed in India's cities. In addition, many of those who had moved out of camps, including those who had returned, were unlikely to have found a durable solution to their displacement and should therefore still be viewed as part of India's internally displaced population.

Many of India's IDPs had insufficient access to basic necessities such as food, clean water, shelter and health care. Those in protracted situations still struggled to access education, housing and livelihoods. Tribal IDPs in camps in Chhattisgarh in central India faced the risk of attacks by both government forces and government-allied militia on the one hand and Naxalite insurgents on the other.

IDPs' attempts to integrate in the place of displacement or settle elsewhere in India have generally not been supported by the government. At the same time, a number of displaced groups have faced barriers to their return to their place of origin. Although Muslim IDPs in Gujarat continue to endure very poor living conditions, their hopes of return are dim since Hindu extremist groups have taken over their original homes and land. Christian IDPs in Orissa have been discouraged from returning, as some returnees have been forced to convert to Hinduism.

Where the return of IDPs has been possible, doubts have remained about its sustainability in the absence of information on their situations. In the north-east, the return of more than 35,000 Bru people displaced from Mizoram state to Tripura state in 1997 and 2009 began in May 2010 and continued in 2011. By the end of the year, up to 5,000 people had been able to go back to Mizoram, but once there, many had to settle in temporary camps as Mizo organisations associated with their original displacement strongly resented their return.

There is no national policy, legislation or other mechanism to respond to the needs of people displaced by armed conflict or generalised violence in India. The central government has generally devolved responsibility for their protection to state governments and district authorities. These bodies are often unaware of IDPs' rights or reluctant to offer support, particularly in those cases where they have played a role in causing the displacement.

As of 2011, no ministry at the central level was mandated to ensure the protection of IDPs, and no central government agency was responsible for monitoring the number and situation of people displaced, returning, settling elsewhere in India or seeking to integrate locally. Humanitarian and human rights organisations had limited access to IDPs. Nonetheless, some national agencies and human rights bodies, including the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, advocated on behalf of people internally displaced by conflict and violence.

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