April 05, 2007

Public Hearing on Gujarats internally displaced survivors



Against the backdrop of the announcement of the compensation package for the victims of the Gujarat Carnage 2002 by the Cabinet on March 22nd 2007, over 250 survivors of the carnage from 8 districts across Gujarat gathered to testify about the plight of internally displaced survivors before an eminent panel in Delhi. The panel comprised: Justice Ahmadi (former Chief Justice of India), Prof Zoya Hassan (Member National Commission for Minorities), Siddharth Varadarajan (Deputy Editor, The Hindu), Sagarika Ghose, (CNN-IBN), B.N. Yugandhar (Member, Planning Commission). The event was organized by the Antrik Visthapit Hak Rakshak Samiti.

The testimonies were organized around four key issues that internally displaced riot victims are currently struggling against, namely: Denial of justice by the State and the Police; Absence and exclusion of livelihoods opportunities; Problems of women and children; lack of basic facilities and infrastructure in the relief colonies.

Speakers on the first theme highlighted the complete denial of justice and the continuing insecurity under which they continue to live. Several speakers spoke about how officials do not respond to their requests, application and personal representations.

In the second session on livelihoods, speakers highlighted the dire situation under which they were living - without basic amenities, no livelihoods and often barely eating one square meal a day. Yusuf Bhai Vohra who had a flourishing business before the riots spoke powerfully about his present situation, “I had a lot of dreams for my sons who were also involved in the business. Now, I am working as a driver and my sons are cleaners. We barely earn Rs. 2000 a month. When I go to the Government asking for work they ask me to dig trenches. Don’t I have the right to be restored my earlier livelihood options.” Speaker after speaker throughout the day testified to the fact that their assets and businesses had not been restored, if at all they had received compensation it was far less than what they had claimed and they continue to face economic and social boycott.

In the third session women victims spoke passionately about the specific difficulties that they are facing. Sultana from Kasimabad colony in Kalol spoke about being sexually assaulted and though she has been filed a case there has been no judgment. Yasmin from Ahmedabad raised the question, “What will happen to women who were sexually assaulted and molested and who have had the courage to speak out. There is no compensation for this. And the present package does not acknowledge sexual assault as a crime that requires compensation.” Hazra Husain Bhai Sheikh from Vadodara now living in Godhra responded to the package saying - “While there is compensation for the dead, what about all of us the living dead?”

In the fourth session on basic amenities the speakers provided detailed examples of the complete absence any civic amenities – electricity, no roads, no access to schooling. Shabnam, who was in the 11th standard at time of the riots, gave up her education. She has recently rejoined school. She said, “I now walk 5-6 kms to go to school. When it rains the entire colony gets flooded. I am sometime unable to go school for 15 days at a time.”

Gagan Sethi from Jan Vikas one of the organizers highlighted the need for including internal displacement within the development agenda and the need for a policy. He said, “ We welcome this package and are happy. But this package is about the past. We are talking about the future. The package should be reorganized to address the current needs of the survivors which should include food security, housing, basic amenities and livelihoods.” He also stressed the point that violence against women needs to be recognized as a crime and an injury.


The jury responded and made some suggestions:

Justice Ahmadi said that he had been moved by all the testimonies he had heard and was upset that no remorse or regret had been expressed. He said, “Women require special treatment. Every woman should be given a BPL card.” He highlighted the need for a liberal rehabilitation package which should set standards. He said that the Gujarat government should be reminded that they had set up a special rehabilitation colony for Gujarati’s displaced by the Idi Amin regime in Uganda.

Zoya Hasan said that things had moved even this far because of the survivors struggles, persistence and resilience. She welcomed the package but suggested that the package be reorganized so that is rehabilitation package and not just a compensation package. She mentioned that because of the insecurity survivors have not been able to return to your residences and businesses which is unique. She offered that the Minorities Commission could assist in this process. She also stressed the need for a further package for those who would not benefit from the present package.

Mr Yugandhar said given the increase in civil strife in the country, a policy for internal displacement was essential and that he would recommend this to the Home Ministry. He also said that the planning commission would try and ensure that the basic minimum needs, amenities and infrastructure in the colonies and resources for livelihood opportunities are provided.

Mr Siddharth Vardarajan said that this struggle was important not only for the victims of the Gujarat Carnage but was relevant for Kashmiri Pandits and other displaced people across the country. A regime that is not capable to protect its citizens does not have the moral authority to remain in power. The compensation package should be liberal and should set standards.”

Charter of Demands

We the internally displaced people (in our own country), who have congregated here in Ahmedabad today, on 1 st February 2007, representing approximately 5000 families, 69 colonies and 23,000 people, demand recognition first as Citizens of the Republic Of India with a basic Right to life with Dignity. Our own State Govt has failed to protect our lives and property and guarantee a safe return to our original place of residence.
While we acknowledge the role of the various Commissions and some Civil Society organisations, we realize that till today our lives have only worsened and insecurity only deepened. We have organized ourselves to seek redresal, reparation and take charge of our own struggle.

As Internally displaced we Demand:

Provision of Basic Amenities and Provision of Livelihood in Rehabilitation Colonies

The rehabilitation colonies need to be immediately regularized as per the government records; ration cards and voter cards should be given to all residents of these colonies. Schools, under Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, health centres and Angan wadis should be opened in all the colonies.

Government of India should agree for a period of five years, or until the residents continue to live in the camps, whichever is earlier, all the inhabitants of such camps should be given BPL ration cards without going through the formalities laid down by the Government for the issue of such cards. Similarly, widows should be allowed to claim their pension even if they have not applied within two years or even if they have sons above the age of 18 years.
Basic amenities must be provided in the camps of displaced victims. These would cover provisions of safe drinking water, street lights, approach roads etc. This should be done by the State Government.

The State Government should prepare a special economic package for those displaced by the violence with special focus on livelihood issues. Special preference should be given to youth and their employment in Government jobs and public sector. For the self employed special efforts should be made to provide inputs like easy credit, raw material and marketing assistance. We strongly believe that this is a vital element in the rehabilitation scenario and that for it to be successfully implemented, NGOs approved by the AVHS( Antarik Visthapit Hakrakshak Samiti) should be involved in it.

The Facilitation of Safe Return without conditions by providing protection by CISF and supervised by a Judicial Magistrate First Class to work in liaison with the District Committees of the AVHS .Efforts to counter conditions which generate animosity and Hatred be planned with AVHS

There should be a monitoring committee consisting of representatives of State and Central Government and Civil Society and from AVHS, which will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the schemes described above are properly implemented.

A Special Economic Package for Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Muslim families in Gujarat
There is an urgent need for the Central Government to design and implement an immediate special economic package for rehabilitation of internally displaced families in Gujarat. The package must include:

An amount of Rs.4 lakhs per family/household which is internally displaced as of date of announcement i.e. not staying in their place of residence since the 2002 riots and allotted semi permanent shelters in relief colonies.
Of the Rs 4 lakhs, Rs 2 lakhs as cash compensation to each family, in form of monthly income post office deposits(5 to 7years duration) in the name of the woman, and the balance to be split two ways.

Rs.1 lakh towards creation & improvement of existing infrastructure in the colonies including improvement of the present shelter. The houses must be in joint names of both spouses.

The balance Rs.1 lakh on livelihood including family health insurance, of each family (to cover minimum two members of the family of which one should be a woman) to be spent, based on micro planning exercise to be conducted at each colony with the assistance of credible NGO’s identified by the Antarik Hak Rakshak Samiti.

National Policy on Internal Displaced due to Violence

We demand the formulation of a national policy on internal displacement due to the violence for people across regions and communities in India, so that all internally displaced people everywhere in India shall have a justiciable framework of entitlements to protect them in the future. Populations displaced due to sectarian, ethnic or communal violence should not be left to suffer for years together due to the lack of such a policy.