Repatriation of Bru persons to Mizoram

Reasons for being in news

In a major breakthrough on repatriation of displaced Bru persons from Mizoram since 1997, an agreement has been signed by Government of India, Governments of Mizoram and Tripura and Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) recently.

In 1997, a bout of ethnic violence forced thousands of people from the Bru tribe to leave their homes in Mizoram. An attempt at repatriation began in 2010 . However, so far, nothing significant has happened.

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The Brus of Mizoram

The Brus, also referred to as the Reangs, are spread across the northeastern states of Tripura, Assam, Manipur, and Mizoram. In Mizoram, they are largely restricted to the districts of Mamit and Kolasib.

Historical background of the conflict

The first signs of a conflict between the Brus and the Mizos, the majority tribe of the state, emerged in 1995.

Two Mizo organisations, the Young Mizo Association and Mizo Zirlai Pawl, or the Mizo Students’ Association, reportedly demanded that Brus be left out of the state’s electoral rolls, contending that the tribe was not indigenous to Mizoram.

This led to a reactionary militant movement among the Brus that was led by an armed outfit called the Bru National Liberation Front, and a political body called the Bru National Union.

The two organisations wanted more political autonomy for Mizoram’s Brus, and demanded a Bru Autonomous District Council. In 1997, militants of the Bru National Liberation Front allegedly shot down a Mizo forest guard at the Dampa Tiger Reserve located in Mamit district. The incident evoked a hostile reaction, and the Brus were at the receiving end of a violent backlash by the Mizos, forcing the Brus to flee the state in large numbers to neighbouring Tripura.

The exodus

The displaced Brus took refuge in a town called Kanchanpur in northern Tripura, on the Mizoram-Tripura border. Now, they are spread across seven refugee camps on the Jamui hills, which separate Tripura from Mizoram and Bangladesh. The number of Bru refugees living in these camps is estimated to be around 35,000.

Situation in the camps

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In 2014, the Tripura High Court had called the situation in the camps “ridiculous”. According to reports, each adult in the camp in 2014 was eligible for an allowance of Rs 5 per day and 600 grams of rice. Minors get Rs 2.5 and 250 grams of rice. People in the camps still have little access to potable water and medical services.

People from the tribe living in the camp have in the past alleged that the Tripura government was making life as difficult as possible for them in order to make them leave. Residents of these camps are not entitled to employment opportunities under any government scheme.

Demand of the Brus

1 . Brus who return are not safe in Mizo-dominated villages, and that they should be provided with cluster villages, a demand that the Mizoram government has termed as unreasonable.

2 . Demand of five hectares of land per family .

3 . The Brus also want the Mizoram government to provide at least one government job per family and cash assistance of Rs 1.5 lakhs for each repatriated family.

4 . The most contentious demand, however, is “the facilitation of the creation of an autonomous district”, something that the Mizoram government has refused to even consider.

View of Mizoram government

1 . The state government has accused leaders of the Brus, of deliberately sabotaging the repatriation process by repeatedly changing their demands.

2 . Demand for an autonomous council was impractical.

As Mizoram itself is in very bad shape financially so some of the demands for financial compensation will never be accepted.