Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for 9 November 2005
Review: 98/05

Lessons Not Learnt by Assam:
Ethnic cleansing and internal displacement in Karbi Anglong and NC Hills

Since 26 September 2005 when three Dimasa auto-rickshaw drivers were murdered by unidentified assailants in Karbi Anglong district of Assam, a spate of retaliatory killings of the Dimasas and the Karbis started. As of 9 November 2005, 90 persons have been killed. The victims include 76 Karbis, 11 Dimasas, 1 Bodo, 1 Bengali and 1 Nepali. The most gruesome of the killings occurred on 17 October 2005 when 34 Karbis were hacked to death and five were burnt alive at Charchim in West Karbi Anglong.

Dozens of villages have been affected and thousands of

IDPs in Karbi Anglong district

houses have been burnt, destroyed or looted. The killings led to internal displacement of 44,016 persons as on 30 October 2005 in Karbi Anglong, NC Hills and Hajoi under Nagaon district. In the Karbi Anglong district, out of 32,871 displaced persons 25,602 are Karbis, 5,600 are Dimasas and 1,669 are other communities.

Ethnic cleansings are not new in Assam. They have been a phenomenon since early 1993. Assam government irrespective of whichever party is in power has failed to prevent loss of lives, bring perpetrators to justice, and provide relief and ensure proper rehabilitation of the displaced persons.

Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights, Mr Suhas Chakma undertook an on-the-spot field visit to the Karbi Anglong district on 3-4 November 2005. ACHR is the only human rights organization to visit the areas so far.

I. Observations of the field visit

The summary of the observations of Asian Centre for Human Rights are given below:

-          The pattern and organised nature of the killings that started following the murder of 3 auto-drivers belonging to the Dimasas on 26 September 2005 establish beyond any reasonable doubt the involvement of the organised armed opposition groups. Although, the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) and the United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) consistently denied their involvement and blamed it on the common Karbis and Dimasas, it appears impossible to hack to death 34 Karbis such as the ones that took place on 17 October 2005. The internally displaced persons uniformly blamed the armed opposition groups for the killings that brought distrust among two communities which shared excellent cordial relations since time immemorial. Repeated denials and hacking to death, instead of using fire-arms to avoid violations of cease-fire ground rules with the government of India and State government of Assam, do not exonerate the DHD and UPDS from the charges of involvement in the killings;

-          The killings, which were initially perpetrated by the armed opposition groups, have spread to the community level. The killing of two Dimasas - Gichand Diphusa (38) and Dilaksing Maramus (39) of Disagedepa under Diphu police station on 2 November 2005 is a case in point. A group of about 25 people waylaid a bus coming from Diphu towards Dhansiri at Charchari around 3.35 pm with spears and machetes. There have also been stray incidents of arson of abandoned houses in Diphu town at the time of the visit of ACHRís Director;

-          Both the state government of Assam and the Central government of India failed to protect innocent lives and stop the orgy of killings because of (1) the failure to enforce respect for the cease-fire ground rules by the DHD and the UPDS, (2) the failure to dispatch and deploy adequate security forces to bring the situation under control and (3) the failure to initiate inquiry by Justice P K Phukan to identify the culprits and stop recurrence of such killings; and

-          The conditions in the relief camps remain deplorable because of overcrowding, lack of proper shelter and accommodation, inadequate food, absolute lack of firewood and vegetables, inadequate utensils, lack of medical facilities for the pregnant women, absolute lack of baby food, inadequate clothing and the collapse of the education system. It will not be an understatement to state that the provisions provided to the displaced persons is worse than what is provided to the convicted prisoners under the different jail manuals of India.

ii. Findings on the deplorable conditions of the Internally Displaced Persons:

The situations of the IDPs in Karbi Anglong, NC Hills and Hojai remain deplorable. It shows that the State government of Assam and Central government of India have failed to learn any lesson.

a. Lack of proper accommodation

Representative of Asian Centre for Human Rights visited the camps of the IDPs in Dhipu and Dhansiri on 3 and 4 November 2005 including the Oxford English School which houses about 2000 people.

The displaced Karbis and Dimasas are housed in most unhygienic conditions like chickens in a coop. The camps are extremely overcrowded, and most inmates have to sleep in the open. There is no adequate space to sleep for all the inmates. When it rains, there is no adequate space even for standing.

b. Lack of adequate food and utensils

Apart from rice, Dal and chirra, the government has also not provided adequate clothes, cash doles to buy vegetables or firewood. The lack of fire-wood and vegetable has been described as most problematique.

In Karbi Anglong district, there were 32,871 inmates and the State government as of 30 October 2005 had provided only 8,504 plates. It implies that four persons have to share a plate. This is highly inadequate. Even each convicted prisoner is given a plate and glass. But the victims of gross human rights violations are not provided any such assistance.

c. Inadequate medical facilities

The government has failed to take preventive measures against the spread of malaria. An estimated 1,170 families have not been provided mosquito nets as on 3 November 2005. There are 6,349 families but the government has provided mosquito nets to only 5,179 families. Many families have more than five members. The lack of adequate mosquito nets is a problem in all the camps.

There are about 200 pregnant women in the relief camps. But there are no special medical facilities for the women. Due to the lack of facilities and transport, babies were delivered inside the camps and not at the hospital.

There have been nine deaths in the relief camps.

d. No baby food

Out of the 44,071 inmates, 17, 971 or overwhelming 40.78% are listed as minors. A large number of them are babies and infants.

Yet, no baby food is being supplied and this remains the most scandalous.

e. Lack of appropriate clothing

The provision for clothes is abysmal. The state government has provided only 6,964 blankets for 44,016 internally displaced persons.

With winter approaching, there is a need for more blankets as well as warm clothes.

In the absence of dresses other than what they were wearing at the time of fleeing their homes, majority of the displaced persons have been facing the shortage of clothes. The state government has failed to provide adequate clothes to the majority of the inmates. For example, the government provided only 5000 dhuti punjabis for 13,503 adult males, 4999 shawls for 12,452 adult women and 12,080 frocks, pants and shirts for 17,971 boys and girls.

Many of the internally displaced persons do not have clothes to change their dress.

f. Closure of all the schools

The education system has collapsed in Karbi Anglong. All the schools and colleges remain closed although Durga Puja vacation ended on 17 October 2005. About 20,000 students have been affected as the schools are being used to house the internally displaced persons.

Out of 53 camps in Karbi Anglong, 32 are schools. In addition, about ten other schools remain closed.

The government has not taken any measure to vacate the schools by building temporary camps for the inmates. Apart from the displaced children, all students in Karbi Anglong district have been affected due closure of the schools.

Apart from security, internally displaced persons in Karbi Anglong, North Cachar Hills and Hojai of Nagoan district require immediate humanitarian assistance. The full report will be submitted to the concerned authorities and bodies.

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