Tag Archives: India

Land issues at the core of ethnic violence and internal displacement in north-east India

By Anne-Kathrin Glatz

Anne-Kathrin Glatz is a country analyst at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). IDMC’s report This is our land”: Ethnic violence and internal displacement in north-east India” can be accessed here.

The north-eastern region of India, which consists of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, has seen many episodes of armed conflict and generalised violence since India’s independence in 1947. Some of these situations caused massive internal displacement, of hundreds of thousands of people. Currently more than 76,000 people remain in internal displacement in Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura due to such violence, according to conservative estimates provided in IDMC’s new report.

Conflict and violence in north-east India have had different causes, including violent competition for land and political power. Rebel groups such as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland have fought for outright independence for their ethnic group, while other groups have strived to reach some level of autonomy. Related, the increasing scarcity of collective land available to indigenous people has led some to instigate violence against people they regard as “outsiders” in order to change ethnic demographics in their favour. Inter-ethnic violence between indigenous groups has also led to internal displacement.

The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India has been a means for some groups to establish a de facto ethnic “homeland”. It recognises “Tribal Areas” administered through Autonomous Councils, and thereby provides special protection to some “tribes” in the north-east. A demographic majority in an area is necessary for groups to seek this status. This has created grievances among minorities living in territories falling under Autonomous Councils. The hundreds of ethnic groups in north-east India do not live in distinct areas, and so their demands for ethnic homelands have often led to generalised violence and, in turn, internal displacement aimed at “ethnically cleansing” an area.

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Week in links – week 42/2011: land disputes in Bolivia, India, Kyrgyzstan and the UK

This week, we have a few updates on recent stories covered in TN:

First, the indigenous protesters marching against the construction of a road through the Tipnis national park in Bolivia have reached the capital La Paz and are settling in to force the Government to negotiate on the issue. Nicholas Fromherz of Foreign Affairs provides an analysis of the tremendous damage the mishandling of this issue has done to President Evo Morales’ credibility.

Having recently taken China to task for its stereotypically stilted response to public outrage over crooked land takings, as well as its stereotypically draconian response to community resistance to being evicted, I am now presented with the classic counter-stereotype in India, where public acquisition of rural land to facilitate large-scale investment is also a pressing issue. Having adopted a new ‘light footprint’ policy on facilitating purchases of land for industrial use after protests last spring and summer, the government of the Uttar Pradesh province now faces a court decision ordering the return of previously acquired land and compensation for parcels investors already built on. Without taking a position on the actual case, it is a classic instance of the great BRIC dichotomy, with India a trickier business environment than China, but frequently for the right reasons.

More dispiriting follow-up to the ethnic mayhem in Kyrgyzstan last year, this time in OpenDemocracy. First, Bruno de Cordier gives a bleak overview of structural violence in Central Asia in the form of rentier politics and patronage societies. Then Elmira Satybaldieva portrays how these patterns are reflected in the fragmented and untransparent politicking in the leadup to Kyrgyzstan’s 30 October elections. With the land disputes and other grievances underlying last year’s violence still unresolved, the prognosis is worrisome.

FAO has described how Sweden, notwithstanding its past ambiguity on the right to water, is funding a highly innovative scheme to help farmers in eastern Kenya develop greater resilience in the face of climate instability, in part through better water management techniques. IRIN, for its part, reports on how poorly Kenya fares in general in advance mitigation of disasters, whether of the natural variety or man-made examples such as last month’s appalling pipeline fire.

And just to recall that housing and land issues remain relevant in the Global North, the New York Times reports on the messy beginnings of the eviction of a traveler community from the Dale Farm encampment they have occupied for years in Essex, UK – while the Guardian documents the surprisingly peaceful end of the process. On OpenDemocracy, Justin Baidoo-Hackman explores the issue of whether the evictions qualify as ethnic cleansing (my take: forced evictions are already plenty bad).

They know the solution – Land purchase programs for rural women in India

by Deborah Espinosa
This guest post was originally posted on Landesa’s Field Focus blog, which provides expert insight on the issues surrounding land rights and international development. Deborah Espinosa is a senior attorney and land tenure specialist.

She was one of at least 40 landless women who demanded to meet with us that day.  They had heard that we would be visiting their village to talk with women in self-help groups (SHG) who had participated in the Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) Land Purchase Program, one of several programs that the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh was implementing.  She was determined that we hear her message. That day was one of the more difficult days of my career as a lawyer advocating for land rights for the world’s poorest.

The AP Land Purchase Program, which Landesa and RDI-India helped the State design, assisted landless women in organizing to negotiate with large landowners and purchase and subdivide agricultural land for themselves and their families.  From 2004 to 2009, 5,303 women paid US $604,418 (just over $100 each) to purchase 4,539 acres of farmland.  The women paid a total of 25% of the purchase price, 15% of which they borrowed.  The government subsidized the remaining amount.  For weeks, our team  had been traveling throughout the state, talking with formerly landless women whose lives had been transformed through the program.  Most of the women had owned the land for about four years, with titles to their land in their name alone.  State law permits only one name on the patta, or title, and the State required that the patta had to be in the name of the wife (if married) or a female head of household.

The women whom we interviewed reported significant benefits associated with shedding the “landless” cloak and becoming a full-fledged landowner.  They reported increased income and the ability to start saving, improvement in their family’s health due to having more food to consume and higher quality food, and the ability to access credit from banks and village moneylenders.  They also perceived an improvement in their family’s status within the community as evidenced by having better marriage opportunities for their children.  Although the women reported that there still was room for improvement on all fronts, for them, becoming a landowner had profound effects on their family’s welfare.

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Good fences make good neighbors?

by Rhodri C. Williams

A few reminders of how so many of the more festering conflicts we see today can be reduced (perhaps somewhat simplistically) to real estate disputes.

First, and most monotonously familiar, we have the protracted negotiations to end the Middle East conflict. The latest wrinkle, reported in the New York Times, involves an alleged US threat to state the obvious if Israel refuses to extend the OPT settlement construction ban and allow negotiations to continue:

…if Mr. Netanyahu turns down the United States, officials said, Mr. Obama could provide the Palestinians with their own assurance: his formal endorsement of a plan under which Israel’s pre-1967 borders, with land swaps, would form the baseline for negotiations over territory.

Second, in India, the NY Times reports on a case of micro-partition, with a court decision dividing a religious site contested between Hindus and Muslims between them, with the proportions allocated apparently significantly correlated to the statistical likelihood that a deity was born on exactly that spot:

…each of the three judges issued a separate opinion, diverging in interpretation of certain facts, including over whether Ram was born precisely on the contested site. Yet the court did hand a significant victory to Hindus, who had argued that Ram was born beneath the central dome of the destroyed structure. That portion of the contested property was granted to Hindus as part of their two-thirds share, presumably to erect a new temple to Ram.

Meanwhile, in the run up to the South Sudan independence referendum, commentators in the Boston Globe remind us that the fate of the peace process now hangs on similar line drawing exercises in three patches of turf most of us have never heard of – and hopefully never will:

… efforts [to prepare for the referendum] should not come at the expense of progress in the three transitional areas established by the agreement. The people of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile were promised a democratic process of popular consultations, while residents of Abyei were given the right to decide, through a separate referendum, whether to stay in the north or join the south. Regrettably, preparations for the Abyei referendum remain deadlocked and the popular consultations have been postponed. These three areas have received much less attention than the southern referendum, but they are a weather vane of the north-south relationship and have the potential to derail the entire peace deal.

Land is unique, indispensable and inherently limited in supply, which is why it is the source of so many disputes even in relatively peaceful parts of the world. Add a shake of spiritual identity and a dash of conflict and you have a problem that can fester for decades.

Drawing a line usually involves an allocation of unfairness rather than an achievement of justice. It is, as the Times pointed out in the India case, Solomonic. But if everyone can ultimately live with the line, then they can stop dying for the land.