Editorial

Bru Resettlement In Tripura….

More than 35,000 Brus displaced due to ethnic violence in Mizoram since 1997 are currently distributed among seven relief camps in these two subdivisions. Leaders of the refugees, in January, signed a quadripartite agreement with the Centre and the Mizoram and Tripura governments for rehabilitation in Tripura instead of returning to “uncertainty” in Mizoram. Twenty-three years after ethnic clashes in Mizoram forced 35000 people of the Bru community to flee their homes to neighbouring Tripura, an agreement has been signed  to allow them to remain permanently in the latter state. The agreement among the Bru leaders and the governments of India, Tripura, and Mizoram, signed in New Delhi on January 16, gives the Bru the choice of living in either state. In several ways, the agreement has redefined the way in which internal displacement is treated in India. All Bru currently living in temporary relief camps in Tripura will be settled in the state, if they want to stay on. The Bru who returned to Mizoram in the eight phases of repatriation since 2009, cannot, however, come back to Tripura. To ascertain the numbers of those who will be settled, a fresh survey and physical verification of Bru families living in relief camps will be carried out. The Centre will implement a special development project for the resettled Bru; this will be in addition to the Rs 600 crore fund announced for the process, including benefits for the migrants. Each resettled family will get 0.03 acre (1.5 ganda) of land for building a home, Rs 1.5 lakh as housing assistance, and Rs 4 lakh as a one-time cash benefit for sustenance. They will also receive a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000, and free rations for two years from the date of resettlement. All cash assistance will be through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), and the state government will expedite the opening of bank accounts and the issuance of Aadhar, permanent residence certificates, ST certificates, and voter identity cards to the beneficiaries. The Bru or Reang are a community indigenous to Northeast India, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram, and Assam. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG). Over two decades ago, they were targeted by the Young Mizo Association (YMA), Mizo Zirwlai Pawl (MZP), and a few ethnic social organisations of Mizoram who demanded that the Bru be excluded from electoral rolls in the state. In October 1997, following ethnic clashes, nearly 37,000 Bru fled Mizoram’s Mamit, Kolasib, and Lunglei districts to Tripura, where they were sheltered in relief camps. Since then, over 5,000 have returned to Mizoram in nine phases of repatriation, while 32,000 people from 5,400 families still live in six relief camps in North Tripura. In June 2018, Bru leaders signed an agreement in Delhi with the Centre and the two state governments, providing for repatriation to Mizoram. Most residents of the camps, however, rejected the “insufficient” terms of the agreement. Only 328 families returned to Mizoram, rendering the process redundant. The camp residents said the package did not guarantee their safety in Mizoram, and that they feared a repeat of the violence that had forced them to flee. On November 16, 2019, Pradyot Kishore Debbarma, scion of Tripura’s erstwhile royal family, wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah seeking the resettlement of the Bru in the state. The Bru were originally from Tripura, and had migrated to Mizoram after their homes were flooded due to the commissioning of the Dumboor hydroelectric power project in South Tripura in 1976, he claimed. The very next day, Chief Minister Deb too, asked the Centre for permanent settlement of the Bru in Tripura. Meanwhile More local communities in Tripura are up in arms against the resettlement of the Brus displaced from adjoining Mizoram. Members of the Halam community, a Scheduled Tribe of Tripura, also called Riam, on Thursday prevented surveyors from assessing land in the Churaibari area in Dharmanagar Subdivision of North Tripura district. The area borders Assam. People belonging to the Manipuri and Muslim communities in the area too protested the proposed settlement of Bru refugees in the area. This was the first instance of conflict over the issue of resettling the internally-displaced Brus beyond the Kanchanpur and Panisagar Subdivisions of North Tripura district. The sizeable Bengali, Mizo and local Brus – also called Reangs – have been against the settling of the Bru refugees near the areas they inhabit. The Ranglong Youth Association also submitted a memorandum to North Tripura’s District Magistrate warning of a long-term agitation if the authorities persist with the “mass settlement of any outside community”. Other local communities elsewhere in the district have also vowed to carry on demonstrating against the mass settlement of Brus. The Joint Movement Committee comprising Bengali and Mizo organisations enforced a shutdown across Kanchanpur Subdivision on September 22. “We can allow up to 500 Bru refugee families to be settled in areas of our choice,” committee leader Susanta Bikas Barua said. Local Brus of four villages — Urehampara, Donjoylapara, Nouhbaraipra and Gomohonpara – have also opposed the settlement of the displaced Brus near their areas despite the ethnic similarity. The displaced Brus, however, want the government to honour the agreement and settle them in clusters of at least 500 families. Protesting against the Centre’s decision of rehabilitating over 32,000 Bru migrants in Tripura, two local organizations now started indefinite strike from Monday at Kanchanpur sub division in North district. The local organizations – Nagarik Suraksha Mancha and Mizo Convention under the banner ‘Joint Action Committee’ (JAC) had earlier organised a series of protests against resettlement of the Brus only in this sub division. We were given assurance earlier that maximum 1,500 families would be given settlement here. But now, we heard that they are planning to give place to 6,000 families. If this happens, the demography and environment of the subdivision will be effected. We can’t accept that,” chairman of JAC Dr. Zairemthiama Pachuau told mediapersons. The Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Forum (MBDPF) recently demanded the state government issue permanent resident and Scheduled Tribe certificates to them as part of their resettlement. MBDPF general secretary Bruno Msha said,” We have nothing to say about their movement. We believe that the state government will take necessary action in this regard.”

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