Involuntary Displacement Of Tribals: Dandakaranya Experience

N N Panigrahy 

Rimi Panigrahy

Introduction Impact On Tribals
Involuntary Displacement Of Tribals In Dandakaranya Area Violation Of Law By Forcible Evacuation Of Tribals
Rehabilitation Packages Naxal – Tribal Nexus
Refugees’ Dis-Satsfaction Over Rehabilitation Arrangement Conclusion

I. Introduction:


    This is true of the involuntary, forced and unlawful displacement of tribals from Dandakarayana Project resettlement area. Perhaps this is an unique case where large scale displacements have been done in a tribal dominated area to settle the refugees from East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh). The tribals were displaced with out any compensation/ rehabilitation. This paper highlights the R&R facilities given to refugees and injustice done to the displaced tribals of Dandakarayana area.

    The Dandakarayana region covers 4 states of India e.g. Odisha, Chhatishgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra. The total geographical area of Dandakaranya is about 130,000 sq kms. The literal meaning of Dandakarayana, in Sanskrit, is the Jungle (Aranya) of punishment (Dandak). In Ramayana this area was known as Dandaka forest. It is believed that Sri Rama with Laxman and Sita spent 13 years (out of 14 years) in exile in this forest. The places like Chitrakut, Ramagiri, Sitakunda, Haladikunda, Sabari River, Tamasa River etc. mentioned in Ramayana flow in this region.

    With the partition of India after independence, thousands of refugees rushed to India from West Pakistan and East Pakistan. So far East Pakistan is concerned, the upper caste rich elite Hindus migrating to India settled in West Bengal. In the 2nd phase, rural middle class cultivators and artisans migrated and also settled in West Bengal. After communal riots in East Pakistan,during 1960s and 1970’s, the 3rd phase of refugees inflow took place . These refugees comprised lower caste poor Hindus like “Namasudar”, which the West Bengal Government did not like to accommodate in West Bengal.

    The Odisha and Madhya Pradesh Governments agreed to rehabilitate these refugees and agreed to release respectively 1,49,000 ac and 67,000 ac.(total 2,16,000 ac) of land . The Dandakaranya area was thinly populated with dense to very dense forest cover and tribal dominance. The State Goverment decided to settle the refugees in this area. The Dandakarayana Project started functioning in in July, 1958. The project area was divided into four zones, e.g., Malkangiri, Umarkot of Odisha and Parllkote and Kondagaon of Madhya Pradesh (now Chhatishgarh) with head quarters at Koraput

    Rehabilitation work was taken up by Dandakarayana Development Authority (DDA) . It is claimed to be a successful rehabilitation programme in India. But, such an assertion loses sight of the involuntary, forced and inhuman aspects of tribal displacement in the area.

II. Involuntary Displacement Of Tribals In Dandakaranya Area

    In 1958,when Dandakaranya Project was commissioned , the tribals of Koraput district didn’t know what civilization is. The State Government. took them forgranted and worked under the presumption that the tribals could be displaced very easily without any resistance to rehabilitate the refugees of East Pakistan. Even the Government did not consult the tribals in this regard.The tribals were forest dependent for their livelihood. Government grabbed the forests which provided shelter and livelihood to the tribals. While the refugees were treated as displaced persons, the aboriginals, i.e., tribals were not viewed so. The tribals were cultivating their lands without any land records. The survey and settlement organization had not carried out settlement operations in this area as the tribals owned little cultivated area. But after the commissioning of Dandakarayana project, settlement operation started in this area in 1959-60 for the resettlement of displaced persons from East Pakistan.

    Since the tribals did not have any record of rights over their cultivated land, they were forcibly and inhumanly displaced from their own land and they fled, out of fear, to more interior, remote, hilly tracts for settlement.

III. Rehabilitation Packages

    The rehabilitation and resettlement work executed by Dandakarayana Development Authority benefitted refugees of East Pakistan at the expense of local tribals. A huge administrative set up was established with one Chairman, one Chief Administrator, with about 5000 employees and headquarters at Koraput. The development work done in Dandakarnya area is praise-worthy. The rehabilitation packages given to refugees and the development work done in this area by Dandakarayana project is given below.

1.     Land reclaimed for resettlement in undivided Koraput district (Malkangiri and Umarkot zones)

A. Koraput Zone  
  Private land -21.48 ac.
  Government. land -22.71 ac.
  Total -44.19 ac.
B. Malkangiri Zone  
  Forest land -1,23,831=00 ac.
C. Umarkot zone: -It consists of Umarkote area and Raighar area.  
  Umarkot area - Forest land – 20,393 ac.
  Raighar area - Forest land – 27,435 ac.
  Total land acquired in Umarkot zone was 47,828 ac
D. No of tribal villages up rooted  
  1. Umarkot (Revenue villages) – 63
  2. Raighar (Revenue villages) – 49
  3. Malkangiri (Revenue villages) –126 villages

Thus total number of villages uprooted is 238


2. No of Refugee families settled in undivided Koraput district

1.  Theruvali   220
2.  Sunabeda   962
3.  Padwa   296
4.  Malkangiri, Details Not Available  31,000
5.  Umarkot Details Not Available
6.  Raighar  Details Not Available
7.  Other places of district Details Not Available
Thus total number of families settled   32478

  3. Rehabilitation benefits given to Bangladeshi refugees

The rehabilitation benefits given to refugees are as follows. (Even 1% of benefits of the Rehabilitation & Resettlement packages have not been given to the forcibly displaced tribals).

  • a) 800 sq yard i.e. 7200 sq feet developed homestead plot and a house with 600 sq feetplinth area.
  • b) Kitchen garden plot - 0.35 ac
  • c) Maintenance grant of Rs.2850/- (1960 Price Index).
  • d) Loan to the extent of Rs. 6225/-
  • e) Agriculture land for agriculture families – 6 to7 acs.
  • f) Subsidy on pesticides to each agriculturist family (about 90% of total families).
  • g) For non-agriculture family - a plot of 2 ac reclaimed land for cultivation.
  • h) A loan of Rs.1000/- for small traders
  • i) House building loan – Rs.1700/-
  • j) Communication facilities to all the refugee villages.
  • k) A large tank in each village.
  • l) Following irrigation facilities extended to benefit refugees in undivided Koraput district.
  1. Potteru Irrigation (from Chitrakonda dam)
        ● Gumpakonda Canal – cultivable command area – 38921 ha
        ● Tamasa canal – cultivable command area – 32213 ha
  2. Satiguda Reservoir (Malkangiri dam) – 9000 ha
  3. Bhaskel (Umarkot) – 4400 ha
  4. Total -84604 ha

In addition to these projects, a number of minor irrigation projects, irrigation tanks, and water harvesting structures were raised by Dandakaranya Development Authority (DDA).

4. The following infrastructures development works were done in Dandakarayana area of un-divided Koraput district for the benefit of refugees in Malkangiri and Umarkot Zones

a) Medical Facilities ( Nos.)  
  1. Hospitals and Primary Health Centre - 11 
  2. Dispensaries - 30 
  3. Health Sub Centers - 21 
  4. Primary Centers - 51 
  5. Mobile Medical Unit (fully equipped) - 12

Total -125


b) Educational Institutions  
  1. Primary School - 318 
  2. ME School - 35 
  3. High School - 08

Total - 361

“Bengali” is the medium of instruction in Primary Schools and it is a recognized language in Secondary Schools.


c) Communication (in Kms)  
  1. Main Roads - 566.40
  2. Rural Roads - 295.40
  3. Link Roads - 835.50
  4. Internal roads - 406.14

Total - 2103.44

Improvement of the existing PWD roads (in Kms.)

  1. Kotta – Malkangiri – Motu – 180 
  2. Papadahandi – Umerkkot – Kundei – 110 
  3. Umerkot – Kondagaon raoad – 65 
  4. Bhabanipatana – Parlikota road – 72 
  5. Umarkot – Jharigaon road – 18

Total – 335


d) Ponds/Tanks,/Well/ Tube Wells (Nos.)  
  1. Village Tanks - 324 
  2. Head Water Tank - 346 
  3. Masonry Well - 515 
  4. Tube Wells - 1882

Total -3067

e) Cottage Industries  
  1. 500 Dhenkis 
  2. Bamboo Basket and Mat Industries – Baipariguda 
  3. Wood Carpentry Centre – Borigumma and Umarkot 
  4. Weaver Societies – 2 Nos by State Government. 
  5. Multipurpose Co-operative Societies
  • Training in Tailoring, Rope making with Jute and Sisal fiber, Papad making, cane and bamboo work, bee keeping, pottery work etc.
  • 46 bullocks driven Ghanis, there power ghanis, one Gobar Gas plant.
  • Four backery units
  • Four rice mills


f) Small Scale Industries  
  1. Orissa Small Scale Industry (utensils, carpentry, etc.) – Sunabeda.
  2. Central Work Shop at Ambaguda.
g) Soil conservation measures like check dams, water harvesting structures, Terracing etc. Soil test done at different locations and the land not suitable for agriculture purpose were eliminated.  
h) Community Centers – about 230 Nos  

5. Other Benefits given to Refugees

  1. As per the 7th scheduled of the Indian constitution, “relief and rehabilitation of persons displaced from their original place of residence by reason of the setting up of the domain of India and Pakistan.( But nothing is mentioned about the origin of the soil i.e. tribals displaced from their original place of habitation).
  2. The Indian Citizens Act, 1955 says “those who have migrated to India in the wake of country’s partition are entitled to citizenship and their children would become natural citizens of the country”.
  3. Letter. No. 948 – RR dated – 6th February 1960 of Relief and Rehabilitation Dept, Governmentt. of Orissa delegated the power of the Revenue Board to RDC, South Division in the matter of release of government land to Dandakaranya Project”.
  4. Letter. No. 12746 date 24th March 1961 of Government. of Orissa says “seven acs of land per family should be leased out both to DPS from East Pakistan and also to the tribal families who are to be settled”. (But till today action has not been taken for tribals).
  5. Letter. No. 4844 0 ISG dated 23.5.1961 of Government. of Orissa State Government states “Orissa Government. will not claim any compensation from Dandakaranya Development Authority for lands given to them”.
  6. Letter. No. 25820 dated 30th May 1961 of Government. Orissa – “lands made over to DDA should by settled with DPS on ordinary rayoti rights without charging any payment of salami but subject to payment of rent at approved settlement rate for similar cases of lands in the vicinity”.
  7. According to letter. No. 56/77/R dated 27.04.1977 of Revenue Dept. Government. of Orissa , “Collector Koraput has been delegated power to sanction release of land up to 10 acs in rural areas and up to 1 ac in urban area in favour of DDA”.
  8. Letter. No. 7(18)/73 – DNK – Desk III dated 9th December 1977 of Government. of India states “DPS from former East Pakistan settled in agriculture in the project shall be allowed to retain reclaimed and developed lands allotted to them for agriculture to the extent of 5 acs dry land or 4 acs partially irrigated land or 3 ac perennially irrigated land free or cost. The DPS can retain excess land on payment of Rs. 500/- per ac towards reclamation and development of land”.
  9. Letter. No. 7(18)/173 – Desk III dated 18th August 1981 of Government. India points out “the above order was revised (as demanded by DPS) and the DPS are allowed to retain excess land without any payment”.
  10. According to letter. No. 9(6)/80, Desk III, Dated 13th August, 1982 of Government of India “Homestead plots allotted to all DPS (Agriculture and Non agriculture) and 2 acs agriculture lands allotted to non agriculture families settled in rural area of DDA shall be treated as grant”. Thus allotment of lands to all DPS is free of cost.
  11. Central and State Government instructed officials concerned to hand over the following documents at the time of shifting to resettlement colonies. 
    1. Patta for the lands allotted.(Patta is heritable and transferable) 
    2. Indian citizenship certificate.
    3. Scheduled caste certificate for “Namsudra” refugees as per their declaration (All the refugees settled in Koraput district enrolled themselves as “Namasudra” castes).
  12. State Government have created an organization for looking after the Pakistani refugees till their absorption by Dandakarayana Project. 
  13. Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) opened “Maize Research Centre” to educate refugees in improvement of maize cultivation.
  14. 831 families were given employment in work centers.
  15. Fishery tanks in 1,100 ac were excavated.

IV. Refugees’ Dis-Satsfaction Over Rehabilitation Arrangement

Even after being given all these facilities at the cost of tribals, the refugee Bengali settlers in Koraput district were not satisfied. As per Mr. Pannalal Dasgupta (in Dandakaranya Dake (Oriya) – Translated by Bhagabat Prasad Ratha), a veteran freedom fighter and social worker, the following are the reasons for their dissatisfaction:

  1. Calcutta radio could not be accessed in Dandakarayana area.
  2. Bengali newspaper was not available at Dandakarayana.
  3. Local newspaper does not cover the life and culture of the Bengalis.
  4. The camps were dispersed from each other by a distance of 2/3 kms which stood in the way of Bengali communities.
  5. There was constant conflict between local tribals and refugees.
  6. The settlements were on infertile land and forest area.
  7. Scope for interaction between Bengalis and Dandakarayana authorities was less.
  8. Rehabilitation packages were inadequate.
  9. Environment was not suitable for them.

Discontentment was more among the refugees settled in Malkangiri area, so much so that in thousands they left camps and proceeded to West Bengal to resttle there, particularly after CPM came to power. They were hopeful as CPM leadres had raised their hope before they came to power. But their hope was ahattere when they faced bullets in Marichijhap and were forced to retun back to Malkangiri. According to Mr. Pannalal Dasgupta, the broadminded, simple and innocent tribals returned all their belongings, which the refugees had given at the time of leaving the camp. Even one tribal chief went to Hasanbad (West Bengal) to request the refuges to return back. But the Government of India repudiated the attitude of refugees to leave DandakarnyaOn the other hand ,the Government was against this type of attitude of Refugees. The then Prime Minister of India , Mr. Morarji Desai clearly told “I have no sympathy for them. Why did they leave their settlements?”.

Over the years, however, refugees, who came pauper to Dandakarnya have grown from strength to strength, become richer, while the tribals have become poorer.

V. Impact On Tribals

The tribals displaced from Malkangiri, Umarkot and Raighar are respectively Koya, Bhatras and Gonda tribes. The forced evacuation had tremendous impact on them, which has affected them economically, socially, psychologically and culturally.

  1. The tribals of Dandakarayana depended on forest for their livelihood. They cultivated virgin fertile land by adopting Podu cultivation in hills to raise foodgrains besides, they used to collect fruits and roots, minor forest produce charcoal etc. from forest for sale. Massive de-forestation in the name of reclamation seriously affected their livelihood.
  2. The tribals lost forest greenery, remoteness and isolation which they liked the most.
  3. Due to forced displacement and non payment of cash/land compensation in lieu of land and property lost, they became poorer.
  4. The pristine nature of their culture changed drastically under the influence of Bengali refugees, massive development work and inflow of outsiders.
  5. The benefits of education and health programmes reached them by way of seepage, while most of it was snatched away by the smart Bengali refugees. The indices of human development in these tribal dominated districts remained low, illiteracy was high, particularly among women and BPL families dominated the households. 
    The refugees mostly are Namasudras who belong to Scheduled Caste. Literacy rate of the Scheduled Caste is more than that of tribals in Nawarangpur and Malkanagiri Districts. Therefore, most of the jobs in Malkangiri and Umarkot zone has been taken away by them depriving the Scheduled Castes of the soil.
  6. The community structure of tribals weakened due to demonstration effect of aliens.
  7. The tribals are being exploited by the rich, educated and cunning refugees.

The Central and State Governments followed a very highly discriminating policy in the treatment of tribals vis-à-vis refugees. This has created animosity between both the groups.

The Dandakarayana project has been perceived as the cause of exploitation, deprivation and misery of the poor and hapless tribals of Koraput district under the guise of settlement of refugees and development of the area.

VI. Violation Of Law By Forcible Evacuation Of Tribals

Government and Dandakarayana Project Authority, by forcibly displacing tribals from their own soil, violated the following provisions of the Indian Constitution, that of the Human Rights Declaration and other relevant regulations.

  1. Article 19(c) of the Indian constitution, which says that “Displacement without adequate resettlement arrangements amounts to an act of infringement”.
  2. Article 21, 29 (c), 29(f), 41 and 42 which provides for “right to life with dignity and equality”.
  3. Human Right Declaration, 1948 recognizing right to culture.
  4. Human Rights by (a) depriving the tribals of their right to life and livelihood, (b) forced eviction, c) Eliminating and removing natural resources (i.e. water, flora, fauna, soil, forest etc.)
  5. Article 12 of the Constitution of India which provides “The right to live with human dignity is a fundamental right of every citizen”.
  6. United Nations Indigeneous right : a) ownership of tribals on their land enjoyed for generations, b) protection of natural laws & c) respect for the culture and values of the people etc.
  7. Article 15, (2) of United Nations Declaration : “Rights related to Culture”.
  8. Land Acquisition Act, 1894 – Section 4(1): “……concerned villages to be notified by attaching notice in public places” (for eviction).

VII. Naxal – Tribal Nexus

The Naxlites are very active in Malkangiri and Raighar areas and claim the support of tribals. Tribals’ support to Naxal movements very likely is an expression of their conflict with refugees and dissatisfaction with the government and Dandakarayana Project Authority. The tribals were thrown out of the land, they once occupied for generations. The tribals look at the refugees as their bread snatchers and consider government as protectors of the latter. They do not trust the politicians who play a dubious role by making false promises, but tacitly support the rich and educated refugees. The Naxlites sympathise with them and in return, they support the Naxals, for which the movement is gathering strength in the area. The Naxlite problem of this area (Odisha and Chhatishgarh) will never be solved unless government makes sincere effort to solve the tribal problems.

VIII. Conclusion

There is nothing wrong in rehabilitating the refugees, but not at the cost of tribals. Because the tribals are innocent, poor illiterate and in articulate, they cannot put up strong resistance to forcible displacement. Displacement of the hapless tribals by government is an act of grave injustice.

The Dandakarayana Project is the Best Rehabilitation programme (of refugees) but the worst example of displacement (of tribals).


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