The conflict has severely impacted childrens 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.153 Many villagers told Human Rights Watch that schools stopped functioning as soon as Salwa Judumstarted. A villager from Mukudtong told Human Rights Watch,
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:
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 Dantewada district collector confirmed that [o]n police operations, police use government buildings. He further added that, Naxalites target government buildingseven if its a school or a health centerso many of these buildings have been damaged.157 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:
Unless they are being occupied by military forces, international humanitarian law prohibits the destruction of schools, since they are civilian objects.159
The Indian National Commission for Protection of Childrens Rights (NCPCR) has recommended to all parties that schools should be recognized as zones of peace:
The Chhattisgarh government has relocated or merged around 260 schools from Dantewada and Bijapur districts since Salwa Judum started.161 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.162 The government has also permitted local NGOs to take children from camps to other towns or cities in Chhattisgarh for their schooling.163 In some cases, such relocation has separated children from or limited contact with their parents who are residing in camps.164
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.165 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.166 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.167
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.168 The Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) project officer for Warangal district said,
The ITDA project officer for Khammam district assured us that schools were open to all children including IDPs, but failed to address the problem of language as a barrier to education. He offered a solution to the language problemthat because displaced children are bilingual (speaking both Hindi and Koya, a tribal language) they could go to Koya schools in interior villages.170A local NGO however said that this solution would not address the language barrierwritten Koya uses the Telugu script, and poses the same problem as Telugu-medium schools.171
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.
153 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.
154 Human Rights Watch group interview with Vadtam Veera and Vadtam Cheena (pseudonyms), IDPs from Mukudtong, village K10, Khammam district, December 7, 2007.
155 Human Rights Watch interview with Prakash (pseudonym), IDP from Kannaiguda, Kothooru, Khammam district, December 4, 2007
156 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.
157 Human Rights Watch interview with K. R. Pisda, district collector of Dantewada district, Dantewada, December 10, 2007.
158 Letter from Ganapathi, secretary general, CPI (Maoist), to the Independent Citizens Initiative, October 10, 2006, http://www.cgnet.in/N1/maoistreplytoici/view?searchterm=reply (accessed February 20, 2008), para. 5.
159 See ICRC, Customary Internatioanal 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).
160 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.
161 Letters from Block Education Officers of Usur, Bhairamgarh, and Konta, to public information officer, District Collectorate Dantewada (copied to Himanshu Kumar), July 5, 2007.
162 Human Rights Watch group interview GR3 with volunteers working with school children (names and location withheld), December 9, 2007.
163 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.
165 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.
166 NCPCR, Visit to Dantewada and Khammam, p. 7.
167 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Haneef, first interview, December 4, 2007.
169 Human Rights Watch interview with S. Sunder Abner, project officer for Warangal district, Integrated Tribal Development Agency, Eturnagaram, November 29, 2007.
170 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.
171 Human Rights Watch interview with Dr. Haneef, Chinturu, December 7, 2007 (second interview).