WHAT IS THE BRU SETTLEMENT DEAL?
Published by: Tanusmita Debnath
The Brus are an indigenous community of the north-eastern states of India. During 1997 more than 40,000 of them fled the Mizoram amid the violent ethnic clashes and were sheltered in the relief camps of Tripura. In November 3, 2019 an agreement was signed by the centre and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram to let the Brus who stayed back in Tripura since the nine phases of repatriation to be resettled in Tripura. The author here discusses about the Brus, their crisis, the terms of their settlement deal and its criticism.
Introduction: Who are the Brus?
The Brus additionally known as the Reangs, is a community primitive to the North-eastern regions of the India which is spread across the states of Tripura, Assam and Mizoram. The Bru tribe consists of twelve clans apart from the Reang clan like Molsoi, Meska, Raikcha, Chorkhi, Msha, Chongpreing, Toimui yaphaoh, Tauma yakchwo, Nouhkham Apeto, Yakstam and wairem clans. The Bru tribe had been identified by the outsiders since many years ago. The tribe was acknowledged by the Government of India as the “Reang” and also as one of the many Scheduled Tribes (ST) of Tripura. In Tripura, the Bru tribe is identified as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group. They had been ambushed by the groups who doesn’t consider them indigenous in Mizoram. The Brus speaks both Kokborok and Bangla, the two most broadly vocalized languages of both tribal and non-tribal communities of Tripura, including their own Kaubru language and have an easy correlation with the state. In 1997 followed by the ethnic conflicts, almost 40,000 Brus escaped Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram and were quartered in the relief camps in Tripura. Since 1997, greater than 37,000 Brus had been residing in six refugee camps situated in the Kanchanpur and panisagar sub-divisions of northern Tripura, when they fled from the ethnic clashes of the adjoining state Mizoram. Till 30th November, 2019 about 7,000 refugees returned to Mizoram after the nine phases of repatriation. The Central government, the governments of Tripura and Mizoram and the leaders of Bru organisations signed a quadripartite agreement in January permitting the remaining 32,000 refugees who stayed back to be resettled in Tripura.
Young Mizo Association and Student Association:
Young Mizo Association (YMA) was established on the 15th June 1935 at Aizawl, Mizoram. It is a non-political, Voluntary organization. There are 702 Branches of YMA which are spread across Mizoram as well as in the states of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura. The Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) also known as the Mizo Students’ Association, had apparently demanded that the Brus to be left out of the state’s electoral rolls, asserting that the tribe was not primitive in Mizoram. This was the very first indications of a rising clash between the Brus and the Mizos in the mid-1990s that leaped from the interrogations on the voting rights of the Bru people. According to the Brus, there had been a “mass deletion” of their names from the electoral rolls of Mizoram at the request of the two Mizo nationalist organizations. The influential Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) have insisted the Brus in Tripura to return before the Lok Sabha elections or be eliminated from Mizoram's electoral rolls. This demand was supported by the former Chief Minister of Mizoram, Lal Thanhawla. Moreover, the MZP also insisted that the Tripura government should reconsider and withdraw the proposition of resettlement of the displaced Brus in the Mizo populated areas of the Jampui Hills so as to avoid inter-community conflicts and ensure peace within the state. The MZP also asserted that the decision taken by the Tripura government was without the consent of the Mizos, who were the original residents of those areas and no actual information was provided to them regarding the resettlement of the Brus from the beginning. It also requested the Tripura government to settle the Bru people in other regions of the state so they could live peacefully and earn a better living.
Who are the BNLF or the BNU?
The Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) is an armed troop of the Reangs, formed in 1996 followed by the violent ethnic conflicts between the Mizos and the Reang tribe in the district of Mizoram. The instantaneous cause of the clash was the petition for an Autonomous District Council (ADC) by the Bru National Union (BNU) which is a political organisation of Brus that was formed in the year 1994. The BNU attached its demands in the attendance of a majority of Brus in the sub-division, and declared that their political, economic and cultural rights as well as other rights were not fairly shielded beneath the existing political arrangement. The areas where BNLF squads are active comprises regions of Mizoram, Tripura and Assam and areas wherein the squad had conducted predominant assaults consists of Mamit and Lunglei districts of Mizoram, the Hailakandi district of Assam along with Kanchanpur district of North Tripura. The BNLF is recognized to be functioning within the thick forests near the border of Mizoram and Tripura. Moreover, its dens are traced within the Bhuban Hills of Cachar district in Assam. Furthermore, the BNLF is engaged in the brutal assaults not only towards the non-Reangs, additionally towards the security force cadre.
The troop was additionally involved in the internal conflict with other terrorist outfits of Northeast, such as the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and its squads conducts assaults with modern firearms and weaponries such as the AK series assault rifles, grenades and bombs, and are qualified in using these weapons. Ever since 7th September, 2001, the BNLF had been involved in a string of negotiations with the government of Mizoram. Nevertheless, they hadn’t arrived at any solution even after 11 rounds of negotiations. The 12th round of the discussions held in the capital Aizawl on 29th April, 2004, were adjourned by the Mizoram State Government declaring an ‘unhealthy political atmosphere’ triumphing in the state. Various political parties as well as community-based organisations had put up a rigid disagreement to any kind of agreement with the BNLF. Whereas the BNLF insists that the number of Bru who are anticipating the repatriation is greater than 32,000 but the Mizoram Government presumed that it is no more than a little over 10,000. The BNLF had toned down its demands for an Autonomous District Council (ADC) and is inclined to negotiate for a bit less such as a regional council. The Mizoram Government had declined to concede this point of a separate autonomous governing body for the Brus. Furthermore, the government is also not prepared to accede the BNLF’s demand that the Union Government ought to be entangled in the ongoing peace discussions. The State Government of Mizoram had additionally exacted that the BNLF squads should surrender if a permanent resolution were to be discovered and peace reinstated in the region.
What was the crisis of the Brus?
A spell of ethnic aggression forced thousands of people from the Bru tribe to abandon their homes in Mizoram. Since 1997, the ousted Bru people from Mizoram had been living in various refugee camps in Tripura. In 1997, the murder of a Mizo forest guard at the Dampa Tiger Reserve of Mizoram’s Mamit district apparently by the Bru militants had led to a violent counterattack against the community, coercing more than thousands of people to escape to the neighbouring state Tripura. The Bru militancy was a reactionary movement towards the Mizo nationalist groups who in the mid-1990s had demanded that the Brus to be left out of the state’s electoral rolls, asserting that the tribe was not primitive to Mizoram. After the counterattack in 1997, the Brus took refuge in a town called Kanchanpur in northern Tripura which is situated near the border with Mizoram. But now they are spread across seven refugee camps in the Jampui Hills, which separates Tripura from Mizoram and Bangladesh. 12years later there was another exodus. In November 2009, the Bru militants who had allegedly killed a Mizo teenager, prompted another wave of retaliatory attacks on the Brus who had stayed behind in Mizoram and forced many of them to escape into Tripura once more. There have been multiple attempts to facilitate the return of the Brus to Mizoram over the years since then, but the Indian government and the leaders Bru of the community often have not been able to agree on the terms of the repatriation.
What are the terms of the settlement?
On January 2020, the central government signed a pact for the permanent answer of the Bru refugees’ issue. The settlement was between the Union Government and the Governments of Tripura and Mizoram as well as the representatives of the Brus to terminate the 23-years old the crisis of the Bru refugee. According to the agreement, the centre had proclaimed to give a package of Rs. 600 crores. The Bru tribes would be given land to live in Tripura as per the terms of the settlement. Each family would be given a fixed deposit of Rs. 4 lakhs as an amount of government aid. They would be able to withdraw that amount after a period two years. Each of the families would be given 40×30 sq. ft housing plots as well as an amount of Rs. 5,000 cash per month for two years. The agreement emphasizes that free ration for two years and an aid of Rs. 1.5 lakh to build their houses would be given to each of the displaced families. All the cash assistance would be through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and the state government would accelerate the opening of the bank accounts and the issuance of Aadhaar, permanent residence certificates, ST certificates, as well as the voter ID cards to the beneficiaries. Physical verification to identify the beneficiaries would be carried out within 15 days of the authorization of the settlement deal. Within 60 days the land for resettlement would be identified and the land for allocation would be identified within 150 days. Housing assistance would be provided to the beneficiaries but the state government would build their homes and hand over the possession. They would be moved to the resettlement locations in four bunches, paving the way for the cessation of the temporary camps within 180 days of the signing of the agreement. The government of Tripura would explore the possibility of distracting forest lands and if necessary even reserve forest areas to grant the new entitlements.
Criticism of the settlement:
The Chief Minister of Mizoram, P Zoramthanga wrote to his Tripura counterpart, the Chief Minister of Tripura, Biplab Kumar Deb urging him to reassess resettling the Bru migrants in Jampui Hills and the adjacent areas. His letter came weeks after the Mizo Convention which is an NGO of Mizo community established in North Tripura that staged a protest towards the resettlement process of the Brus. He had bidden Tripura to “immediately reconsider and cancel” the notion of resettlement of the displaced Brus at Jampui Hills and adjoining areas, which he claimed to be a ‘traditional habitat’ of the Mizo community in Tripura. The letter had obtained intense censure from the Bru migrants who feel that the CM Zoramthanga’s letter is an indirect threat to their peaceful resettlement in Tripura. The Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) insisted that the Tripura government should reconsider and cancel the proposal of resettlement of the displaced Brus in the Mizo inhabited areas of Jampui Hills with the aim of avoiding inter-community collisions and also to ensure peace within the state. The MZP also asserted that the decision was taken by the Tripura government without the consent of the Mizos who are the authentic residents of these areas and also that no accurate information was given to them from the beginning. The association also urged the government of Tripura to resettle the displaced Bru people in other regions of the state so they are able live peacefully and earn a better living.
The Brus are an indigenous community of the North-eastern parts of India. More than 40,000 brus escaped from Mizoram to the neighbouring state Tripura During the violent ethnic conflicts in Mizoram. They had been residing in Various refugee camps in Tripura. The Bru tribe was acknowledged by the Indian government as one of the Scheduled Tribes of Tripura. The Central Government signed a settlement deal to resolve the Bru refugee’s issue permanently on January 2020.
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