The Government of India continues to fail in protecting its people by putting personal interests ahead of national concerns


Despite India not being a land torn by war or internal armed conflicts, there are numerous persons, who are citizens of India, and who have lost their homes for reasons beyond their control. These citizens come under the category of internally displaced persons (IDPs). In India thus far, the following four major causes can be attributed to the growth and development of IDPs:


  • Causes of a Political Nature, such as the situation in Kashmir.
  • Causes that revolve around Identity such as the violence between the Bodo Tribes and non-Bodos in Assam.
  • State violence such as was seen amongst the urban populace in Bombay, Coimbatore or Meghalaya.
  • Environmental disasters such as the tsunami which rocked the southern states in India (Tamil Nadu especially), and Developmental Activities which resulted in movements such as the Narmada Bachao Andolan being formed to demand Government protection for the IDPs of the Narmada Dam being built.


IDPs are not refugees, as they have not crossed international lines. However, international humanitarian laws (IHL) do exist for their safety and protection. These laws include:

  • The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which was prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. These principles are a reaffirmation of the rights enumerated under the UDHR regarding life and liberty, freedom from forcible movement, freedom to live a dignified life, freedom from discrimination on any grounds and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention etc. The Principles also put certain obligations on the States to ensure that there is water and other basic amenities provided. Special protections have been added from Principle 10-13 where IDPs should be protected against genocide, rape, mutilation, murder and discrimination.
  • The International Committee for the Red Cross has codified IHL into several rules and chapters. Chapter 38 deals with IDPs. Under this IDPs have the right to return to their homes after the conflict or situation has settled. They also have to be ensured hygienic conditions of living with minimum standards of nutrition provided whilst being displaced. Furthermore, Rule 133 states that the property left behind by IDPs remains in their ownership and must be respected.


The Refugee Convention and the four Geneva Conventions also bear application to IDPs depending on the reasons for their displacement. India has not signed the Refugee Convention and does not have any institutional framework for protecting the rights of IDPs. Moreover, India gives only restricted access to international organizations such as the UNHRC and the ICRC in these troubled areas where IDPs reside, out of fear that humanitarian assistance will become an excuse for foreign interference in local affairs. More often than not, in India it is the Government who creates IDPs, and therefore in the protection of these IDPs, political motives overshadow the needs of the people.

Presently, the Government’s response to IDPs is weak and often half-hearted, leaving India unable to meet its international obligations. There is therefore a strong and urgent need for India to implement the international laws that exist for the protection of IDPs. International instruments do exist in this regard, and all of them place the mantle of responsibility of implementation on the States themselves. There is not much scope for any neo-colonialist practices creeping in, as India’s sovereignty is not at stake.

The IDPs of India do have rights under international law. It is time for India to adopt those rights into their domestic laws.



Tanushree Rao, Protecting Internally Displaced Persons, E — International Relations Students, found on:


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