Monday, April 21, 2008

India, the strong reaction

The Indian government is carrying out the forced transfer of hundreds of thousands of Naxalite refugees escaping from fighting. The claim is made by 'Human Rights Watch' (HRW), which has called on authorities in the State of Andhra Pradesh to stop the mass deportations of men, women and children who are seeking refuge from the violence in the nearby state of Chhattisgarh, where a conflict has been raging for many years between government troops and revolutionary communist guerrillas and since the beginning of the year has caused over two-hundred victims.

Andhra Pradesh refugees"The authorities are destroying shelters". According to the HRW, the latest operation carried out by military forces from Andhra Pradesh occurred on 5 April when men from the Forestry Department destroyed refugees’ houses in the village of Kothooru, forcing them to move elsewhere. Since January 2007, military forces have apparently carried out at least ten operations of this type. “Instead of offering them protection and assistance”, Meenakshi Ganguly, a HRW researcher explained, “the authorities are destroying their shelters and exposing them to all kinds of danger”.

Chattisgarh stateTransferring refugees in trucks. Since June 2005 between 30,000 and 50,000 people have fled from the Khamman and Warrangal districts, in the state of Andra Pradesh, following an intensification in the conflict between the Naxalites and the pro-government militia of Salwa Judum. Even though the federal government and authorities in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh have described the Salwa Judum as a “spontaneous uprising against Naxalite abuses”, Human Rights Watch has discovered that policemen have repeatedly taken part in the raids carried out against the inhabitants of villages suspected of offering refuge to Naxalites. Refugees who have found a place to stay in the forests inside nature reserves are being classified as “illegal residents” by the authorities, who have burned down dozens of houses and forced the homeless to move elsewhere. In some cases, the Forestry Department’s men in Andhra Pradesh have loaded dozens of people onto trucks, driven them off and then unloaded them in isolated areas along the Chhattisgarh border.
Miliziani Naxaliti"Non residents". A Human Rights Watch report written between November and December 2007 illustrates how authorities in Andhra Pradesh have denied the basic assistance of water, food, shelter and medical care to the homeless refugees. In addition to this, the refugees have also been denied the conditions provided for under United Nations guidelines for internal refugees. The Andhra Pradesh government has denied that the people fleeing from the conflict are entitled to benefits since they are “not resident in the state”. The humanitarian organisation has appealed to the Indian government to put an end as soon as possible to the forced deportations, introduce a social support policy for the refugees and start consultations at local, government and international levels to find a solution to the problem in compliance with UN guidelines on internal refugees.

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