Home Contact Us
Search :

Sri Lanka - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#2502, 29 February 2008
Facets of Internal Displacement in Sri Lanka
N Manoharan
Senior Fellow, IPCS
e-mail: mano@ipcs.org

In terms of both the absolute numbers and the proportion of population, conflict-induced displacement of people in Sri Lanka is one of the largest in the world. In the recent confrontation between the LTTE and the government forces that has gained intensity since August 2006, nearly 460,000 persons have been displaced. And the numbers are increasing. This does not include a similar number uprooted by the tsunami that had struck in December 2004, and the 20,000 refugees who fled to India in the past year. Many of them are multiply-displaced. Further, these numbers do not include "night IDPs" who spend their nights elsewhere, far from their homes, fearing violence from armed groups. Displacement is endemic, especially in the conflict-prone districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Amparai, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna. The displacement trend shows that there is little movement between the LTTE-controlled and the Government-controlled areas, but that the movement is largely within them. The displaced include not just Tamils, but also Muslims and Sinhalas. Tamils, however, are the worst affected and greatest in numbers.

People flee their homes either to avoid indiscriminate bombing or shelling or after losing their means of livelihood in the conflict zones or to escape conscription. The UN Secretary-General's Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kälin, identified physical security as the predominant concern of the IDPs. They trek long distances to save their lives. There is always "a pervasive sense of fear and uncertainty." It is not that their lives are better after the flight. IDP camps are usually overcrowded resulting in a severe strain on resources, sanitation, public infrastructure like schools and places of worship. These camps are also fertile grounds for recruitment by armed groups. According to recent WHO estimates, about two per cent of the IDPs are mentally disturbed; women are affected more than men. Breakdown of traditional family structure is also prevalent among the displaced.

Ironically, the IDPs are used by both parties to serve their interests. The LTTE use the displaced people as 'human shields' to stall the advance of government forces. The government uses the IDPs as 'tools of honour' to show to the outside world that "all is well." To prove this point, people are generally prevented from fleeing the area. Even when they manage to escape, the IDPs are forced to resettle in those areas from where they fled, disregarding international protection standards. Destroyed homes and mine-infested lands greet the returnees. Moreover, most of the lands left by the internally displaced are taken over either by the LTTE or by the Sri Lankan Army. It is for this reason that many IDPs prefer local integration in the areas to which they have fled for safety rather than return to their places of origin. The prospects of their return are thus directly related to the prospects for durable peace.

Managing IDPs is a major humanitarian challenge. In this regard, both antagonists have to look at the issue in a holistic manner. Unfortunately, relief and resettlement of the displaced are guided by electoral and other political considerations. Strictly adherence to the 'Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement' should take precedence. In 2002, the GOSL adopted the 'Guiding Principles' in its 'National Framework for Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.' This "Triple R" strategy, however, was given the go-by as conflict resurfaced. Next, a nodal ministry should be made responsible for the welfare of the displaced rather than involving a swarm of departments. Secondly, relief organizations should be allowed free access to the displaced. Most importantly, their safety should be assured by the antagonists. Unfortunately, relief agencies are viewed with suspicion by both the LTTE and GOSL as agents of the 'other.' Third, the provision of livelihood to the IDPs should be given priority. Gradually the rights due to a normal citizen should be bestowed on them signaling that they are not "strangers in their own land." This, in the long run, would restore the confidence of the displaced. Fourth, relocation or resettlement of the displaced should be voluntary and not forced through prematurely. Although the Sri Lankan government had drafted, with the assistance of UNHCR, detailed guidelines on "confidence building and stabilisation measures" for IDPs in the north and east, implementation on the ground is yet to commence. Finally, any permanent resettlement of those displaced can only be ensured after the settlement of the protracted ethnic conflict.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Pakistan: Crouching Democrats, Hidden Khakis
Mullah Fazlullah: Challenges to the “Eliminate or Extradite” Approach
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Stronger Democratic Values for a Better Tomorrow
Sri Lanka and China: Towards Innovation Driven Economies
India-Sri Lanka: Strengthening Regional Cooperation
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
India-Pakistan: Working Boundaries and Lines of Uncontrolled Fire
Of Inquilab and the Inquilabis
Pakistan: Of Messiahs and Marches
Dateline Kabul
Mariam Safi
Can Afghanistan Become a "Perfect Place?"
Afghanistan: Political Crises After the Presidential Run-off
Taliban’s Spring Offensive: Are the ANSF Prepared?
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
Bangladesh: Diplomatic Manoeuvres at the UNGA
Abe’s Successful Visit to Dhaka: Two Political Challenges
Girl Summit Diplomacy and Bangladesh-UK Relations

Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism’s Sake?
Changing Global Balance of Power: Obama’s Response
Obama Administration: Re-engaging India
East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India in East Asia: Modi’s Three Summit Meets
Modi's Visit to Japan: Gauging Inter-State Relations in Asia
North Korea: Seeking New Friends?

Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
China in Nepal: Increasing Connectivity Via Railways
India-Nepal Hydroelectricity Deal: Making it Count
Federalism and Nepal: Internal Differences
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
The ASEAN's Centrality in the Indo-Pacific Region
Myanmar's Political Transition: Challenges of the 2015 Election
South China Sea: Intransigence Over Troubled Waters

Sushant Sareen
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir
Pakistan: Why is Army against Nawaz Sharif?
Pakistan: Degraded Democracy
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Maritime Terrorism: Karachi as a Staging Point
Maritime Silk Road: Can India Leverage It?
BRICS: The Oceanic Connections

Middle Kingdom
DS Rajan
China in the Indian Ocean: Competing Priorities
China-Japan Friction: How can India Respond?
Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Musings on the Bomb

Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Naxalites and the Might of a Fragile Revolution
Six Thousand Plus Killed: The Naxal Ideology of Violence
Anti-Naxal Operations: Seeking Refuge in Symbolism
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security
Obama’s New Strategy towards the Islamic State: Implications for India
Modi’s Tryst with Abe

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
War against the Islamic State: Political and Military Responses from the Region
The Islamic State: No Country for the Old World Order
India and the Conflict in Gaza
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile
Uranium and Nuclear Power: Three Indian Stories
A Strategic Review for India

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Strategic Estrangement: An Odd Bedfellow to Economic Engagement
The Islamic State Caliphate: A Mirage of Resurrection
A Covenant Sans Sword
Voice from America
Amit Gupta
Modi’s US Visit: So Much Promise, Such Little Outcome
India and Australia: Beyond Curry, Cricket, and Commonwealth
And Then There is the Middle East: The Lack of an End-Game

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
Regional Economic Architecture: Is India Ready?

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh: Designs and Network in India

India-Sri Lanka: Time to Settle the Fishermen Issue

Sri Lanka: A New Base for ISI against India?

Ebola: Concerns for India

Left-wing Extremism 2013: The Threat Continues

Maldives 2013: End of Political Stalemate

CHOGM, India and Sri Lanka: New Delhi’s Missed Opportunities

Sri Lanka: TNA in the Northern Province

Presidential Elections in Maldives: A Pre-Poll Analysis

Indian Mujahideen: After Yasin Bhatkal's Arrest

India and the Peace Process in Sri Lanka: So Close, Yet So Far

Sri Lanka and the 13th Amendment: The Arithmetic of ‘Plus’ and ‘Minus’

Sri Lanka and the 13th Amendment: Reconciling Differing Viewpoints

Naxal Violence: What should be Done to Counter?

Sri Lanka: Third UNHRC Resolution and India’s Dilemma

Hyderabad Terror Attacks: Road-blocks in the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC)

Maldives: GMR, Nexbis and the Tale of Two Ousters

Maldives: Indian Investments vis-a-vis Chinese Footprints

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s India Visit: Taking the Ties Forward

Sri Lanka: 25 Years After the IPKF

IPCS Debate: The UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka

Devolution in Sri Lanka: The Latest Take

‘Taming the Tigers’: Reintegration of Surrendered LTTE Cadres

Fishing in Troubled Waters: Indian Fishermen and India-Sri Lanka Relations

Alternative Strategies for Indo-Sri Lankan Relations: Passenger Ferry Service

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2014
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November
 2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006
 2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999  1998

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map | IPCS Email
B 7/3 Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029, INDIA.
Tel: 91-11-4100 1900, 4165 2556, 4165 2557, 4165 2558, 4165 2559 Fax: (91-11) 41652560
© Copyright 2014, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
        Web Design by http://www.indiainternets.com