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Mainstream, VOL L, No 16, April 7, 2012

Chhattisgarh’s Wandering Tribes: Problems of IDPs on the Chhattisgarh-AP border

Friday 13 April 2012



Intense violence in Left Wing Extremism affected States has left hordes of local people homeless. The problem of internally displaced people within the Red Corridor is most acute in the areas falling on the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border. Why is this exodus happening? What is the situation of these IDPs in Andhra Pradesh? Are they facing any problems or pressure from the Andhra Pradesh Government to return? What is the Government of Chhattisgarh doing about this?

From the Bastar division (Bastar, Kanker, Narayanpur, Bijapur and Dantewada districts), which comprises the major chunk of the Danda-karanya region, the worst Naxal affected region in the country, reportedly over 30,000 families have crossed over to the bordering Khammam and Bhadrachalam districts in Andhra Pradesh. Khammam and Bhadrachalam also form a part of the Dandakaranya region which helps the migrants from Chhattisgarh to identify with the local population in these areas.

There are no official statistics indicating the number of IDPs on the Chhattisgarh-AP border. According to a BBC Radio Hindi Service series by its correspondent Salman Ravi, a civil society estimate puts the figure at over one lakh with more than 600 villages in the Bastar division abandoned over the last few years (since 2008 when Salwa Judum was officially taken under the State Government’s control).

Why Migrate to AP?

THE violence in the Bastar division constitutes nearly 90 per cent of the total Naxal activity in the State. The tribes living in the south of Chhatisgarh belong predominantly to the Gond tribes and most of them live below the poverty line. The local population, especially in Bastar, Dantewada and Bijapur districts, often finds itself caught in the crossfire between the security agencies and the Naxals. The Naxals suspect them to be police informers while the security agencies believe them to be Naxal sympathisers and reprisal attacks are thus common and claim a large number of lives.

The IDP settlements are primarily concentrated in Khammam and the holy city of Bhadrachalam (which is considered the starting point of Danda-karanya), about 300 km northeast of Hyderabad. The DIG (Subsidiary Intelligence Branch), AP Police, B. Shivadhar Reddy, said that the State Government was aware of the influx of Chhattis-garh migrants due to a governance deficit and intensive conflict in Chhattisgarh. “The security agencies do view them with suspicion because there is a fair chance that some Naxals slip into the State with the migrants,” he stated.
He mentioned that in Khammam alone, some 30,000 migrant settlements are known. While most of them reside in random settlements, the State Government extends basic amenities to them, but they are uneducated, unskilled and thus fundamentally unemployable in a conventional sense, and become itinerant in search of livelihood. Many of them eventually take up daily wage labour jobs on construction sites in cities like Hyderabad resulting in population pressure and migration-induced unemployment in the locals. The nomadic nature of the Chhattisgarh migrants causes the district administration to reconsider providing them permanent accommodations and job opportunities under the Central and State tribal welfare schemes. In addition, they are not given the Scheduled Tribes status in AP and, therefore, cannot avail any benefits thereof.

There have been reports that some of the IDPs along the border have helped the Naxals in their movement into the State by providing them food and shelter in their settlements due to fear of retaliation. Such stray incidents put them in the direct line of suspicion for all subsequent questioning about Naxal activity in the State.
The IDPs face bigger problems from the Forest Department officials because as a result of their migration, the areas they settle in face defores-tation which adversely affects the State’s mandated forest cover. The latest ‘State of the Forest Report’ of 2011 has indicated that Andhra Pradesh leads the list of the States which have lost maximum forest cover. The report puts the loss of forest cover in Andhra Pradesh at 281 sq km, out of which 182 sq km has been lost in Khammam and surrounding districts. Following this report, the Union Government stated that most of this forest cover loss is due to Left Wing Extremism, especially in Khammam, Adilabad, Warangal and South Koraput districts. This further substantiates the Forest Department’s concerns.

Therefore, there is a divergence between the district administration and the forest officials who wouldn’t want the area to become attractive to more such IDPs and would prefer a push-back.

Short-sighted approach by Chhattisgarh

THE Chhattisgarh Government is not taking note of the seriousness of the situation. P. Joy Oommen, who was the State Chief Secretary till February 6, 2012, stated that this kind of migration has been happening from Bastar to different parts of the country for many years now. However, he feels that it is not a big problem for the State. “The tribals in Bastar escape to government-run camps as well due to the fear of reprise attacks by the Naxals. Crossing over to AP is easier for them because there is no river or border separating the State and they speak the same language. People move out in any conflict situation, there is nothing new in this. The AP Government has not written to us about this. If they have a problem, they should let us know so that we can facilitate their safe return,” he said.

The State Government may be right about such migration being an old and known phenomenon. What is unprecedented is that this migration is permanent. Chhattisgarh’s agriculture is primarily rain-fed and thus, after the Kharif season, there is cyclical unemployment resulting in seasonal migration. The peasants are mostly landless and used to go out in search of alternate employment after the harvesting season to the Rabi States like Haryana, MP, UP and eastern Rajasthan, only to return when there is employment in the State. However, since 2008, the people who cross over to AP don’t return and search for livelihood options there. So, saying that this is an old phenomenon is incorrect.

The Chhattisgarh Government is being short-sighted in their approach to this issue. While it is true that this large-scale migration from the State into AP will clear the area, hence clearing the Naxal support base too, it will also cause a great loss of human resources from Chhattisgarh. The tribals and forest dwellers in the State are experts in indigenous earth-works owing to a largely plateau-like terrain. Building water storage units, small bridges, road construction, constructing culverts etc. is their forte, primarily due to the necessity of the geographical conditions.

Constitutional Provisions

CONSTITUTIONALLY, if the State Government of AP would prevent the movement of these IDPs, they would be denying the IDPs their fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (d) to move freely throu-ghout the territory of India and Article 19 (1) (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India. The Chhattisgarh Government is liable to safeguard the interests of the STs under Article 46 which affirms the Directive Principle to the State for promotion of educational and economic interests of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections. Bastar is declared a scheduled area under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. However, provisions pertai-ning to the scheduled areas are not properly implemented in the State causing this situation to escalate further.


THE problem of this internal displacement cannot be solved without both the concerned States talking to each other and reaching a consensus. However, it is necessary for the Chhattisgarh Government to address the grave trust deficit and ensure protection of these tribals so that they feel safe enough not to cross over to another State. The key to solving this problem is better governance and a dialogue between the two States on dealing with this issue in a more judicious manner.

The author is a Research Officer, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi.

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