Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - India

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 29 April 2013
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - India, 29 April 2013, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
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.
Number of IDPsAt least 540,000
Percentage of total populationUndetermined
Start of displacement situation1990
Peak number of IDPs (year)Undetermined
New displacement in 2012About 500,000
Causes of displacementx International armed conflict
✓ Internal armed conflict
✓ Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
✓ Communal violence
x Criminal violence
x Political violence
Human development index136

Hundreds of thousands of people were newly displaced by armed conflict and violence in India in 2012, while many others continued to live in protracted displacement. As of the end of the year, at least 540,000 people were estimated to be internally displaced across the country.

In north-eastern Assam state in July and August 2012, nearly 500,000 people were forced to flee as a result of inter-communal violence between Bodo tribal people and Bengali-speaking Muslims. The IDPs took shelter in more than 300 camps set up on public land and in public buildings, including schools. Living conditions in camps were reportedly dire, with a lack of basic necessities and little access to health care and education services.

New clashes took place in the same area in November, at a time when the Assam state government was encouraging IDPs to return home. An unknown number of people set up makeshift camps near their home areas because continuing insecurity did not allow them to return. It was not clear whether more people were displaced in November.

Similar clashes in 1993, 1996, 1998, 2008, 2010 and 2011 reportedly displaced more than 800,000 people, of whom tens of thousands were still IDPs in 2012. In addition, about 30,000 Bru people who fled from Mizoram state to Tripura state in 1997 and 2009 remained internally displaced.

In central India, recurring armed conflict over land and mineral resources has pitted government forces and allied militias against Maoist insurgents since 2005, and ongoing clashes caused new internal displacements throughout 2012. There are, however, no estimates of the number of people affected. As in the north-east, many of those who fled their homes in previous years continued to live in situations of internal displacement during 2012.

In Jammu and Kashmir, many of those who were forced to flee their homes in the Kashmir Valley in 1990 and after because of separatist violence targeting the Hindu minority remained internally displaced in 2012. They were living in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in India. Supported by the government with public sector jobs, a small number returned to the Kashmir Valley during the year.

In Gujarat in 2002, and in Orissa in 2007 and 2008, more than 200,000 people fled inter-communal violence between the majority Hindu population and Muslim and Christian minorities. How many of those affected were able to achieve durable solutions during 2012 is not known. Thousands of Muslim IDPs in Gujarat continued to endure very poor living conditions, but their prospects of return remained dim as Hindu extremist groups expropriated their homes and land. Thousands of Christian IDPs in Orissa were discouraged from returning, as some returnees have been forced to convert to Hinduism. IDPs' attempts to integrate in their areas of displacement or to settle elsewhere in India have generally not been supported by the government.

Estimates of the numbers of IDPs in India are conservative and include only those identified as living in camps. The majority, however, are thought to be living outside official camps, with many dispersed in the country's cities. Many of those who moved out of camps in 2012, including returnees, are unlikely to have found a durable solution to their displacement.

India has no national policy, legislation or other mechanism to respond to the needs of people internally displaced by armed conflict or generalised violence. Authorities, whether at the national, state or district levels, often fail to meet their responsibilities to protect and assist the displaced, in some instances because they were unaware of IDPs' rights. In cases where there was a response to a displacement situation, it generally came from state or district authorities rather than central government. These authorities were sometimes reluctant to offer support, particularly in cases where they themselves had played a role in causing the displacement.

There was no central government focal point to ensure IDPs' protection, monitor their number and needs or facilitate durable solutions through return, local integration or settlement elsewhere in the country. Some national agencies and human rights bodies, including the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, advocated on behalf of IDPs. Humanitarian and human rights organisations had only limited access to the displaced population and there was little support from international actors in the response to internal displacement due to conflict and violence.

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