Last month, the New York Times documented the conditions of India’s relief camps for internally displaced people, some of which appear to be becoming permanent settlements. In an email interview, Sanjib Baruah, a professor of political studies at Bard College, explained the causes of and responses to internal displacement in India.
WPR: Where are the major communities of internally displaced persons in India, and what caused their displacement?
Sanjib Baruah: IDPs in India are forced to leave their homes because of (a) ethnic and sectarian violence, and (b) armed conflicts or insurgencies. Recent incidents of ethnic and sectarian violence include the September 2013 clashes between Hindus and Muslims in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh; multiple incidents of interethnic conflicts in Assam and other northeastern states, notably the clashes between Bodos and Bengali Muslims in Assam in the summer of 2012; and the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002. The insurgency in Kashmir, now more than two decades old, has displaced large numbers of people, including at least 250,000 Kashmiri Pandits forced to flee the state in the 1990s. There have also been displacements in areas affected by the Naxalite or the Maoist movement in states like Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. Civilians leave their homes not only because of Maoist violence, but also to escape the wrath of security forces and private militias that enjoy state patronage.