TRIPURAINFO

On Bru Repatriation

AmitChanda

Recently an agreement was signed by the Government of India, Government of Tripura and Mizoram and Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) to repatriate displaced Brus (also called "Reangs") to Mizoram from Tripura. According to the agreement, Government of India will provide financial assistance for rehabilitation of Brus – who have been living as refugees in Tripura since 1997 – in Mizoram and address their issue of security, education, livelihood, etc. in consultation with Governments of Mizoram and Tripura. They will also, according to the agreement, have right to vote in the assembly elections of Mizoram.

Bru, one of the Scheduled tribes of Tripura, also reside in some parts of Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Bangladesh. In Mizoram, they inhabit small pockets of Mamit, Lunglei and Lawngtlai.They, in the 1990s, were demanding for establishment of an Autonomous District Council (ADC) for them which led to a clash between Mizos and Brus. The demand of Mizos was that Brus should be removed from the state's electoral rolls, arguing that Brus are not indigenous to Mizoram. This led to an armed and political movement by the Brus which followed their suppression by the Mizos and state police driving out around 40,000 Bru people from the state. Since then, the displaced Brus have been living, as refugees, in six relief camps of North Tripura – three each in Kanchanpur and Panisagar subdivisions.

To make them return home from the relief camps of Tripura has been, for almost 21 years now, a major challenge for the center as well as the north-eastern states of Mizoram and Tripura. At least eight failed attempts in last 21 years were made to repatriate them. Finally, on July 3 this year, the   Government of India, Government of Tripura and Mizoram and Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) reached an agreement wherein all concerned parties agreed September 30, 2018 as the last date for repatriation, failing which the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) ordered the suspension of cash dole and ration supplies to the Brus living in six camps.

However, since July, only 42 Bru families have returned to Mizoram; rest of them remained steadfast on their stand of not returning to Mizoram unless their demands are met, which, inter alia, include the demand of granting an ADC for the repatriated Brus in Mizoram.However, the demand for an ADC has always faced resistance from Mizoram leaders who say that Bru refugees are welcome in the state but they must shun their "separatist demands".On the other hand, in keeping with the MHA's order, from 1st October all aid to Bru refugee camps has been suspended. The net effect is that over 32,000 Bru refugees living in six relief camps are now staring at a major food crisis.
 
The Modi government in the center must take a humanitarian approach towards the crisis. The Government must realize that dialogue and not coercion will yield a lasting and peaceful solution.



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