Need of the hour
Report of the National Commission for Minorities’ visit to
Gujarat, October 13-17, 2006
On August 29, 2006, complaints from social activists were
received by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on the plight of
persons displaced as a result of communal violence in 2002. They pointed
out that more than 5,000 Muslim families in Gujarat are staying in
makeshift colonies in four districts of Gujarat. In view of the tense
situation in their original place of residence, these people are unable to
return. In the absence of basic amenities like safe drinking water,
drainage, health education, etc, the condition of those living in these
colonies is pitiable. They therefore requested the NCM to make a
first-hand assessment of the entire issue by visiting the camps and to
issue suitable directives to the government on the basis of their
The matter was considered at a formal meeting of the
commission held on September 7, 2006. At this meeting, it was decided that
a three-member team, consisting of the vice chairman and two members,
would visit Gujarat for this purpose over a period of three days (in the
case of the vice chairman and member one) and five days (in the case of
member two). The team visited a large number of camps. Member two visited
17 colonies in the districts of Panchmahal, Dahod, Sabarkantha and the
city of Ahmedabad while the vice chairman and member one visited colonies
in Ahmedabad and Sabarkantha. The team had an opportunity to interact with
members of civil society, NGOs, groups involved in rehabilitation and with
inhabitants of camps as well as those who had suffered as a result of the
riots. On the third day the team had a long meeting with officials of the
state government led by the chief secretary and finished up with a session
with the chief minister of Gujarat. The main findings of the team are
Observation, complaints and demands of residents of
1. During its visit to the rehabilitation colonies, the
NCM team was accompanied by district collectors in each of the four
districts as well as by local government officials concerned with
development, including district development officers (DDOs), taluka
development officers (TDOs), officials of the revenue department,
including talatis and mamlatdars, and by officials of the
municipal authorities in nagar palika areas and the Ahmedabad
Municipal Corporation. The NCM team found that these colonies have come
into existence after the violence of 2002. They house people who, prior to
the riots, had lived elsewhere. Several colonies were found to be housing
people who are witnesses in major legal cases.
2. The NCM team noted with concern that not a single
colony was constructed by the state government, nor was any land allotted
by the state government. All the colonies were built on land purchased at
commercial rates primarily by a range of Muslim organisations and NGOs,
including the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, Islamic Relief Committee, Gujarat
Sarvojanik Relief Committee, etc. During the tour of the camps, members
observed that residents were denied the most rudimentary civic amenities.
They are deprived of potable water, sanitary facilities, street lights,
schools and primary health care centres. The poor condition of the
approach roads was repeatedly highlighted and the team heard reports of
how in the absence of such roads even adolescent boys were drowned in the
water that had collected near the village after the monsoon when the roads
are submerged under several feet of water. The accumulated garbage, the
slush and the puddles of water are a source of debilitating diseases,
including some infectious ones.
3. The residents were frustrated by their inability to
earn their own livelihood and to support themselves in the manner to which
they were accustomed. Before the violence many of these people were small
self-employed traders, artisans or industrialists. The violence put an end
to their means of livelihood since their old clients were unwilling to use
their services. The impression the team received is that very few of them
were employed in service. In the new environment, they are unable to
resume their earlier professions and because of this they find it
difficult to survive.
4. NCM members examined the homes in several
rehabilitation colonies and found evidence of abject poverty. With some
exceptions, the houses contained little except for bedding and kitchen
utensils. Despite these signs of poverty, the NCM found that many
residents did not have ration cards. Even when ration cards were issued,
most of the residents were given above the poverty line (APL) ration cards
instead of below the poverty line (BPL) ration cards. This makes a big
difference because BPL ration card holders are entitled to get food
grains, cereals, kerosene and other basic consumer items at subsidised
rates. Indeed, in several camps, especially in rural areas, the women
without exception had just one major demand: they wanted BPL ration cards
to be issued to them.
5. Interaction with members of civil society, NGOs and
those affected by the riots threw up several problems. Residents
complained about the atmosphere of insecurity in which they had to live.
The team received several complaints about the hostile attitude of the
police towards the residents of these colonies or their representatives
who have taken up their problems with relevant authorities. In addition to
the palpable sense of insecurity in which most of the victims continue to
live, there were several complaints that compensation given for the
extensive losses suffered by riot victims was completely inadequate. The
team was told that the state government has restricted compensation in
respect of damage to houses to a maximum of Rs 10, 000. Other complaints
referred to the absence of suitable rehabilitation facilities since the
state government concentrated only on immediate relief. Since the remit of
the team was to look into issues of rehabilitation, we concentrated more
closely on these.
6. During interaction with the state government we raised
the question of the sum of Rs 19.10 crore that had been returned by the
government of Gujarat to the government of India since it had not been
utilised. Government officials explained that there were no further
demands under the particular heads under which these grants had been
advanced by the Centre. As a result, auditors had pointed out to the
ministries concerned in the government of India that the money should be
returned if it could not be utilised for the purpose for which it was
intended. The NCM team pointed out that if more people were covered under
the relevant schemes it would be possible to utilise the entire amount
allotted. In the course of our visits to the camps we found several people
who are in need of funds under different schemes. If the state government
was able to identify such people and extend the benefits of the scheme to
them they would be able to utilise the entire money allotted.
7. The team noted with concern that the state was not in
the forefront of the move to provide rehabilitation to those who could not
return to their homes after the riots. As pointed out elsewhere, the state
government has not been involved in constructing houses for the violence
affected thus leaving the rehabilitation process to private organisations.
If these private organisations were NGOs whose brief was to serve the riot
affected that would still be appropriate. But this is not so. Some of the
organisations that are active in the field are not purely philanthropic or
service oriented. This space that should have been occupied by the state
is now being held by bodies which have a definite agenda of their own. The
implications that this has for the severity and well-being of civil
society as a whole are extremely serious.
8. The NCM team received repeated demands by the victims
as well as NGOs for a policy package that would be applicable to all
displaced persons. In our view, the time has come to look at this question
very seriously. Riots, disturbances or other calamities occur at regular
intervals. If, as a result of such occurrences, people are displaced and
are unable to return to their usual places of residence, some
responsibility for their welfare must devolve on the state.
Having visited several camp sites and interacted with
members of civil society, victims and activists in the field, and
government officials, the NCM came to the following conclusions:
1. The NCM found overwhelming evidence that there continue
to be large numbers of internally displaced Muslim families in Gujarat who
are living in subhuman conditions in colonies constructed entirely by
2. They are not there by choice but because they are
unable to return to their original place of habitation.
3. There has been no support from the state to compensate
them for their loss of habitual place of residence and normal livelihood
or provide basic services and livelihood options to allow them to live
with dignity in their present location.
4. There has been no attempt to secure a safe environment
or facilitate their return to their homes.
5. Local Muslim organisers who have tried to procure some
rights and entitlements for these displaced survivors have found
themselves the targets of threat and harassment by the local police.
6. Far from admitting that the inmates were in fact
‘internally displaced persons’, the authorities argued that they have
chosen to willingly remain in the camps even after some of their family
members had returned to their original habitation where they continued to
live and ply their trades in absolute security. The NCM team found such
reasoning to be erroneous. It noted that the residents of these colonies
fear to return to the places they had fled partly because they have
nothing left back home to return to and partly because many of them are
eyewitnesses to murders, arson and looting during the communal violence.
The NCM would like to make three sets of recommendations
to the state government and central government to improve the lot of
residents of the makeshift camps: (1) Basic amenities and livelihood
issues; (2) Central government economic package; (3) National policies on
rehabilitation of internally displaced due to violence.
1. Basic amenities and livelihood in the rehabilitation
Basic amenities must be provided in the camps of displaced
victims. These would cover provision of safe drinking water, street
lights, approach roads, etc. This should be done by the state government.
The government of India should agree that for a period of
five years or until they continue to live in 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.
The state government should prepare a special economic
package for those displaced by the violence with a special focus on
livelihood issues. 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 should be
involved in it.
Wherever possible the state should take advantage of the
National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme to cover able-bodied people
in these camps and give them employment.
The government of India should return the amount of Rs
19.10 crore given back by the government of Gujarat. The state government
should be asked to cover more beneficiaries under the schemes in an
attempt to utilise the entire sum.
There should be a monitoring committee, consisting of
representatives of the state government and civil society, which will be
charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the schemes described
above are properly implemented.
2. 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 the
rehabilitation of internally displaced Muslim families in Gujarat. The
package must include a set of inputs that would address the totality of
livelihood concerns. In particular, attention must be paid to the
availability of credit, raw material and marketing support, where
necessary, with the help of NGOs.
3. A national policy on internal displacement due to
There is a need to design a national policy on internal
displacement due to violence. Populations displaced due to sectarian,
ethnic or communal violence should not be left to suffer for years
together due to the lack of a policy and a justiciable framework for
The preamble of the new Draft National Rehabilitation
Policy 2006 (NRP 2006), which incorporates recommendations made by the
National Advisory Council, provides a precedent and sensitive
understanding of how displacement due to any reason affects people. It
describes displacement in the following terms, "…displacement of people,
depriving them of their land, livelihood and shelter, restricting their
access to traditional resource bases and uprooting them from their
socio-cultural environment. These have traumatic psychological and
socio-cultural consequences on the displaced population…" However, the NRP
2006 pertains only to planned displacement due to development imperatives.
When displacement takes place due to mass violence, entailing loss of
life, property, family and loved ones, and a total destruction of the
fabric of the socio-economic and cultural community, then the
rehabilitation of the internally displaced population calls for a new
framework of understanding.
When displacement takes place under conditions of fear and
under constant direct threat in violation of Article 21 of the
Constitution (guaranteeing the protection of life and personal liberty),
the trauma and the conditions under which survivors face the future is
considerably worsened. Further, when the threat of violence is perceived
to be continuing (as it currently is in the state of Gujarat), in the
absence of justice, and in a situation of discrimination and exclusion,
the protection of people’s constitutional rights can only be sought
through a national policy which clearly lays out a non-negotiable
framework of entitlements. Any national policy on internal displacement
due to violence must be designed to include provisions for immediate
compensation and rehabilitation. A national policy on internal
displacement due to violence must further take into account the displaced
populations’ aspirations to ‘return to their home’ and make provisions to
facilitate the return, if it is possible under conditions of safety and
security, and to restore the displaced families to their original
conditions of living.
A national policy on internal displacement due to violence
must also lay down specified time frames for the implementation of a
rehabilitation plan, and include an effective grievances redressal and