Internally Displaced People in India:
An unequal share of the scraps?

On 23 January 2008, India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh reviewed the implementation of recommendations made by the Roundtable Conference on Jammu and Kashmir. A relief package for Kashmiri Pandits [1]  has been proposed and is expected to be implemented.  

Providing relief to Kashmir Pandits is a good first step but the authorities need to act not just in one case. There are now many many different displaced groups in India. With internal conflicts multiplying (see ACHR review 197/07: The Other Side of India’s boom:1000 Conflicts Now ) India has a serious internal displacement problem; a problem that is set to get worse.

This week’s ACHR Review examines the disparity and lack of consistency in the treatment of displaced people in India. The package offered to the Kashmir Pandits highlights that the many other groups of displaced people have not fared so well and are getting far less than the package on offer to the Pandits.

ACHR recommends that the government needs to urgently establish a clear policy on the rights of internally displaced persons across India. In both theory and application the policy must be applied even handedly if is to avoid credible accusations of discrimination.

However, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. There is already a clear set of internationally agreed guidelines that the Indian government can draw from in establishing a national policy: the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.


First Among Equals? Discrimination against other IDPs  

On 20 August 2007, ACHR filed two separate applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) seeking information on the relief and rehabilitation being provided to the Kashmiri Pandits and over 35,000 Reang/Bru [2] IDPs who were displaced from Mizoram State and moved to six relief camps in Tripura State.  

While the relief being provided to Kashmiri Pandits is not satisfactory, their treatment seem generous in comparison to the displaced Brus of Mizoram.  

In addition to basic dry rations, Kashmiri Pandits have been given Rupees 1,000/- per head per month (subject to a maximum of Rs 4,000/- per family per month) in both the Jammu and Delhi relief camps. Meanwhile in Tripura, a diplaced Bru adult is given Rs 87 per month and a minor Rs 43.5 per month. In addition a Bru adult is given  450 grams of rice a day. The allowance drops to 225 grams of rice for a minor.  

On housing, provision again appears discriminatory in favour of Kashmir Pandits. For the Kashmiri Pandits 5,242 two-room tenements are being constructed at a cost of Rs 270 crore under  the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan for IDPs in the Jammu region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Rs 20 crores have been approved by Government of India for construction of 200 two bedroom flats at Sheikpora in Budgam district. Rs 10 crores has been provided to the State of Jammu and Kashmir for reconstruction and renovation of houses and shrines at Kheer Bhavani and Mattan. Another 18 three-room flats have been constructed at Mattan for temporary stay of Kashmiri migrants untill they are able to return to their houses in the Valley while the construction of 100 one-room houses has also been completed. In Delhi, the Delhi Development Authority has launched a Housing Scheme in July 2001 whereby expandable flats at subsidized rates have been made available to the migrants. About 234 families have availed the said scheme.

The Central government and the State government of Mizoram provided nothing to the displaced Brus.  

On education, the benefits enjoyed by the Kashmiri migrant students include reservation of seats in technical/ professional institutions; extension on the date of admission by about 30 days; relaxation in cut-off percentage up to 10% subject to minimum eligibility requirement; increase in intake capacity up to 5% - course wise; and facilitation of migration in second and subsequent years.  

Bru children are entitled to primary education only. They enjoy no reservation nor other benefits in higher educational institutions.  

To protect and restrain the sale of properties left behind by the Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley, the government of Jammu and Kashmir enacted two laws - The J&K Migrants Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection and Restraint of Distress Sales) Act of 1997, and J&K Migrants (Stay of Proceedings) Act of 1997. In addition, 50% of the loss of immovable property (subject to a ceiling of Rs 1 lakh) is paid as compensation for property damaged in insurgency. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has constituted a Standing Committee to review issues concerning Kashmiri migrants on a quarterly basis; the government of Jammu and Kashmir has constituted an Apex Level Committee under the Chairmanship of its Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister; and the government of Delhi has constituted a Nodal Committee with representation from Kashmiri migrants to look after the welfare of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits.  

The authorities of Mizoram have done nothing to protect the houses, land and other properties of the displaced Bru in Mizoram. No compensation has been ever paid for damage of immovable properties of the Bru. There is no committee, either formed by State government of Mizoram or Tripura nor the Government of India to examine the rights of displaced Brus and to determine their repatriation and resettlement in Mizoram.    

This parlous situation of the Bru IDPs is about to get worse. ACHR is in possession of the letter from the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, Government of Tripura of 15 October 2007 which instructed to reduce the monthly rice and cash allocation provided to the Reang/Bru IDPs at the relief camps under the Public Distribution System (PDS), inter alia, on the ground that there is no separate allocation of rice from the Government of India.

[1] Hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits had to flee the Kashmir valley because of the ongoing conflict

[2] Reang is one of the 21 Scheduled Tribes of Tripura state of India. The Reangs refer themselves as Brus.

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