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New report on displacement in northeast India

The government of India has failed in its duty to protect more than 800,000 people forced to flee their homes due to ethnic violence in northeast India over the past 20 years, according to a report released today by the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

“Most of the people displaced by this violence have been forgotten,” says Elisabeth Rasmusson, the NRC Secretary General. “State governments and district authorities have provided different levels of assistance. However, this has generally been insufficient to make IDPs’ recovery possible and ensure their continuing access to basic necessities.”

The report focuses on the situation of internally displaced people from the 1990s to the start of 2011. During this period more than 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes in episodes of inter-ethnic violence in western Assam, along the border between the states of Assam, Meghalaya and in Tripura. According to conservative estimates, more than 76,000 of them are still living in displacement camps.

Currently, there is no specific policy on IDPs and the report strongly recommends that the Indian government passes an IDP law or draws up a national IDP policy to hold state and district authorities to account. Northeast India is often neglected as a region, despite ongoing conflict and displacement. “Effecting change is quite difficult in a situation where there is not much government openness to these issues,” said  Anne-Kathrin Glatz, the IDMC country analyst, speaking at the launch.

The report provides recommendations for the Indian government and at the state level. “The government of India must take urgent steps to ensure that all people in the northeast are safe, regardless of their ethnic identity, and to protect IDPs there,” says Rasmusson.

According to the report, “In each of the situations analysed, responses by the state authorities were not based on comprehensive assessments of the needs of people displaced either recently or for longer periods, but on political factors including local political demographics, the inconsistent interests of the central government, and different levels of media attention.”

In this scenario, decisions are not made on robust evidence, but on politics.  And at the same time, the media is part of this equation, which highlights its potential to get research on this issue into the media and therefore into the debate.

To read the report please click here.

For more information on the report and on these issues contact Anne-Kathrin Glatz, IDMC Country Analyst at ak.glatz@nrc.ch

For more information on Relay work in  South Asia and Northeast India please click here.

IDP camp in Western Assam, India. Photo was taken on a PSA study visit with journalists - Kazu Ahmed/Panos South Asia

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