IX. Impact of the Conflict on Education

A. Disruption of schooling in Dantewada and Bijapur districts

The conflict has severely impacted children’s access to education. A survey conducted by a local NGO indicates that around 40 percent of the children between ages 6 and 16 residing in camps are not attending schools.481 Many villagers told Human Rights Watch that schools stopped functioning as soon as Salwa Judumstarted. A villager from Mukudtong told Human Rights Watch,

All children from our village stopped going to school after Salwa Judum started because Salwa Judum used to abduct children and take them to the camp. From our village, they forcibly took about 20 people, both adults and children. This happened at the time of Dusshera [an Indian festival in September-October] last year [2006].482

Similarly, Prakash, who was displaced from Kannaiguda village, stated that teachers stopped going to the local school because Salwa Judum members beat them for allegedly assisting Naxalites:

There used to be schools around Gangarajpadu. The nearest school was in Maita, around two kilometers away. After the Judum started, children stopped going to school. The teachers also stopped going because Judum people used to beat teachers accusing them of giving midday meals to Naxalites instead of students. So teachers also got frightened and stopped teaching.483

Many schools buildings have been destroyed by Naxalites to prevent Salwa Judum and police from using them for their operations. For instance, one villager said,

The Basaguda [Salwa Judum] meeting was conducted in the Basaguda school. Tharrem school [10 km from Basaguda) was used as a CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] camp for three days. Maoists have now destroyed the Tharrem school.484

The Dantewada district collector confirmed that “[o]n police operations, police use government buildings.” He further added that, “Naxalites target government buildings—even if it’s a school or a health center—so many of these buildings have been damaged.”485 Villagers gave Human Rights Watch the names of around 20 schools that they knew were destroyed by Naxalites prior to February 2007; most of them were destroyed after Salwa Judum started in June 2005.

In a public statement in October 2006, Naxalites defended their destruction of schools:

As for destroying schools used by the CRPF as their camps, neither the people nor our Party think it is wrong. The schools, once they are occupied by these forces, are transformed into torture chambers and concentration camps and there is no hope that they will once again be used as schools in the near future…. Education of the adivasis [tribal communities] is not affected by destruction of school buildings used by the security forces but by the destruction of entire villages (up to 900 villages had been uprooted since June 2005) by the state police, para-military forces and Salwa Judum goondas with active police support…. We are curious to hear what you would say of hundreds of other villages which do not have schools although “Maoist threat” does not exist in those villages?486

Unless they are being occupied by military forces, international humanitarian law prohibits the destruction of schools, since they are civilian objects.487

The Indian National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) has recommended to all parties that schools should be recognized as “zones of peace”:

- In recognizing schools as a critical element in ensuring the protection of children’s rights, the NCPCR Committee strongly urges that schools be identified as “zones of peace” by all parties. This would include non-use of schools for any other than educational purposes, separation of schools from the camps, and introduction of programmes addressing the psycho-social needs of the children delivered within the school environment with appropriate training of teachers.488

The Chhattisgarh government has relocated or merged around 260 schools from Dantewada and Bijapur districts since Salwa Judum started.489 For instance, what was originally the Dornapal day-school campus now functions as a day-school and a residential school. It houses 12 residential schools with around 1,000 children, some studying in tents and corridors for lack of space. The relocation of schools has in some cases separated children from their families because they are studying in residential schools far away from their home villages.490 The government has also permitted local NGOs to take children from camps to other towns or cities in Chhattisgarh for their schooling.491 In some cases, such relocation has separated children from or limited contact with their parents who are residing in camps.492 

B. Displaced children’s access to education in Andhra Pradesh

Children of internally displaced parents who have fled to Andhra Pradesh often drop out of school because they do not speak the language of instruction: schools in Andhra Pradesh teach in Telugu while schools in Chhattisgarh teach in Hindi.493 In addition, many children do not possess school leaving certificates from their Chhattisgarh schools, making it difficult to enroll in local schools in Andhra Pradesh.494 According to Sitara Foundation, a local NGO that provides medical and other humanitarian assistance to displaced persons, around 450 internally displaced children have dropped out of school in Chinturu mandal [administrative division] alone.495

At this writing, the Andhra Pradesh government had yet to sanction a single Hindi language residential bridge course (a course designed to mainstream out-of-school children into regular schools) despite requests from local NGOs and activists.496 The Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) project officer for Warangal district said,

IDPs are not much interested in attending schools because of the language problem and distance … In this district the mother tongue of [local] tribals is Telugu. So we are not planning to establish schools in any other language. In other districts, there are other languages.497

The ITDA project officer for Khammam district assured us that schools were open to all children including those displaced, but failed to address the problem of language as a barrier to education. He offered a “solution” to the language problem—that because displaced children are bilingual (speaking both Hindi and Koya, a tribal language) they could go to Koya schools in interior villages.498 A local NGO however said that this solution would not address the language barrier—written Koya uses the Telugu script, and poses the same problem as Telugu-medium schools.499

The Indian central and Chhattisgarh state governments should take immediate steps to ensure that government security forces avoid using school buildings, restore damaged schools, and facilitate contact between parents and children where they have been separated due to schooling needs. Naxalites should immediately stop destroying school buildings to ensure that civilians who voluntarily return to villages are able to use government facilities in interior areas. The Andhra Pradesh government should immediately provide access to education in Hindi to ensure that displaced children are able to continue their education. 

481 Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, “Way Forward, Survey of Families in Camps,” (Disha Pariyojana, Raahat Shiviroan Ka Parivarik Survey,” undated. Human Rights Watch does not have information about the percentage of school-going children prior to June 2005.

482 Human Rights Watch group interview with Vadtam Veera and Vadtam Cheena (pseudonyms), IDPs from Mukudtong, village K10, Khammam district, December 7, 2007.

483 Human Rights Watch interview with Prakash (pseudonym), IDP from Kannaiguda, Kothooru, Khammam district, December 4, 2007

484 Human Rights Watch interview with IDP-1 from Lingagiri (who chose to remain anonymous), village K1, Khammam district, December 1, 2007. The Central Reserve Police Force or CRPF is a paramilitary police force deployed by the Indian central government in the region.

485 Human Rights Watch interview with K. R. Pisda, district collector of Dantewada district, Dantewada, December 10, 2007. 

486 Letter from Ganapathi, secretary general, CPI (Maoist), to the Independent Citizen’s Initiative, October 10, 2006, (accessed February 20, 2008), para. 5.

487 See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 8 (“military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose partial or total destruction … in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage”); rule 10 (“civilian objects are protected from attack, unless and for such time as they are military objectives”).

488 National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), “Visit to Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) and Khammam (Andhra Pradesh) to Investigate Status of Health and Education of Children affected by Civil Unrest, December 17-19, 2007” report, March 2008, p. 4.

489 Letters from Block Education Officers of Usur, Bhairamgarh, and Konta, to public information officer, District Collectorate Dantewada (copied to Himanshu Kumar), July 5, 2007.

490 Human Rights Watch group interview GR3 with volunteers working with school children (names and location withheld), December 9, 2007.

491 Human Rights Watch interview with Pillay, Gayatri Sangh Parivar, Jagdalpur, January 26, 2008; phone interview with Sandhya Madharia, Gayatri Sangh Parivar, Raipur, February 6, 2008.

492 Ibid.

493 Human Rights Watch interviews with J. P. Rao, professor from Osmania University, Hyderabad, November 28, 2007 (first interview); local activist N3 (name and details withheld), Warangal, November 29, 2007; Dr. Haneef, Sitara Organization, Chinturu, December 4, 2007 (first interview); NCPCR, “Visit to Dantewada and Khammam,” p. 7.

494 NCPCR, “Visit to Dantewada and Khammam,” p. 7.

495 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Haneef, first interview, December 4, 2007.

496 Ibid.

497 Human Rights Watch interview with S. Sunder Abner, project officer for Warangal district, Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Eturnagaram, November 29, 2007.

498 Human Rights Watch interview with K. Bhaskar, sub-collector of Khammam district holding charge as ITDA project officer for Khammam district, Bhadrachalam, December 7, 2007.

499 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Haneef, Chinturu, December 7, 2007 (second interview).