On a cloudy evening, Madkam Kose prepares to leave Durla village in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh. She wants to head back with her family to the nearby Dornapal relief camp, her home for the past three years.

Those deprived of land have been reduced to working as casual labour at the Bailadilla iron ore mines, which had promised to bring prosperity nearly 40 years ago

“There is nothing to do in the camps during the day," she says. “We just come back to our gutted house during the day and pick mahua flowers in the forest."

Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh is a hotbed for Maoist insurgency. Decades of government neglect and oppression by the forest officials gave Maoists entry into villages and a swelling cadre of angry tribals.

To counter the Maoist influence, a government-backed militia—Salwa Judum—was let loose on the tribals in Dandakaranya forests of Chhattisgarh. Waves of forced migration followed when tribals were forced into relief camps, guarded by security forces and paramilitary groups.

Nearly 150,000 tribals have been displaced since 2005, when the conflict began. Some fled to relative safety in nearby Andhra Pradesh, while those who resisted were abducted, tortured, raped and killed.

This week, the non-profit Human Rights Watch, an international agency that has been monitoring events in the region, released a report highlighting the failure of governance, and social and economic lapses as the root cause of the Naxal problem. The report documented the violence and abuse of local communities in Chhattisgarh by both Salwa Judum and the Maoists, and recommended that the Salwa Judum be disbanded.

More photos

Life goes on. An evening scene at the Dornapal camp.

Madkam Kose stands amid the ruins of her house destroyed after the formation of the Salwa Judum. She now lives with her family in the nearby Dornapal relief camp

Emaciated cattle, abandoned by the fleeing tribals, are common in Dantewada

A life-size portrait of the Salwa Judum founder, Mahendra Karma, placed in the middle of a busy street crossing in Dantewada. After three years of unrelenting violence unleashed by the Salwa Judum on the tribals, Karma now agrees that the group has lost its direction and wants it to be disbanded

A Mizo battalion during a search operation on NH221, the only major road under government control in Dantewada. The district administration admits that it has no control over Maoist territory, even a few kilometres off the highway