Jan 06, 2020-Monday
In a move that could provide some relief to the tribal community in Chhattisgarh, the Congress-led state government has finally initiated the process of identification of tribals displaced due to intensified conflict between the Indian State and the Maoists from 2004-05. There is no definite count of how many people/families were forced to flee to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in a bid to avoid getting caught in the crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists, but some estimates suggest that 16,000 tribals (5,000 families) were uprooted from the state. This is a conservative count.
In the “war” between the State and the Maoists, there were two ways in which the lives of tribal people were disrupted. One, the State moved many tribals from their villages in the forested areas to roadside camps to prevent them from “aiding” the Maoists, thus snapping their links with their extended families, their land and culture. This was the notorious and unconstitutional Salwa Judum campaign. And second, hordes of tribals were forced to migrate to other states because they did not want to get caught (and killed) in the fight between the two combatants. But while they saved their lives by fleeing, the tribals faced a hard time in other states since India does not have a policy for people displaced by conflict.
Without a law, internally displaced people end up being nowhere people with no state wanting to accommodate them because they are seen as eating into funds meant for residents. This left them vulnerable to exploitation from labour contractors and government officials. India needs a law to deal with those displaced due to internal conflicts, who become second-class citizens in their own country. For now, Chhattisgarh needs to conduct a proper enumeration of the displaced, bring them back, and help the returnees start a new life.