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Will the Brus Come Back to Mizoram?

Kingson Chingakham

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On July 3, 2018 the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the signing of an agreement with the states of Mizoram and Tripura for repatriating the displaced Bru families.The 33,000 Bru population have been living in Tripura since 1997.

But the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) withdrew from the deal due to some unacceptable terms to the Bru Community on July 16,almost after two weeks.The Bru tribe had demanded permission for construction of temples in Mizoram cluster housing and also wanted land for cultivation.These demands were not accepted by the Mizoram Government.

According to the deal,the center offered a financial aid of Rs 4 lakh to each family in fixed deposit.The Bru families are not happy with this offer and they want the center to offer the financial aid to their saving accounts.The center also offered house and free ration for two years.Families were also promised for a monthly allowance of Rs 5000.The families were to receive house-building financial aid of Rs 1.5 lakh in three instalments.

When the deal was signed,there was an agreement reached between the Bru tribe and the Mizoram Government that if the state government abides to resettlement of the Bru tribe than the Brus should no longer pursue their political demand of autonomous council,assembly seat and job reservation.

To be noted here,the Bru tribe comes under Scheduled Tribe,under the name ‘The Reang’.Let us walk down the history of the Reangs and see what led to this exodus.

From where did they come?

It has been accounted by many historians and anthropologists that the Brus came from the Shan state in Burma some centuries ago and moved to the Arakan Mountains,western part of Burma.At present,Shan state borders China to the north, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the south.Shan State extended beyond the Burmese Territory and even reached the Kingdoms of Assam.

From the Arakan Mountains,the Brus moved to a hill located at Rangamati,Bangladesh called the Maian Tlang.In about 14th century,they migrated to Tripura and then reached Mizoram by 19th century.Therefore,the games of outsiders and insiders between the Mizos and the Brus never stopped.

Root of Ethnic Conflict

Mizoram became a state of India in 1987.Though the issue of majority and minority existed prior that,it aggravated as the Mizos dominated in almost every aspect of the state.

Considering this development,the Bru National Union(BNU) was formed in 1994 to look into the welfare of the Bru tribe.In 1997,the BNU adopted a resolution to demand an Autonomous District Council (ADC) for the Brus in the western belt of Mizoram.They also expressed their dissatisfaction towards the political arrangement for neglecting their poltiical,economic and cultural rights.

The BNU also link the logic of demand of an ADC with the already established ADCs of Lai,Hmar and Chakma in 1971-72.They also accused the majority Mizos for forcing them to adopt Mizo language.In addition,they also charged the Mizos and the Mizoram Government for deleting the names of eligible voters belonging to the Bru tribe from the electoral roll.But in 2015,the Election Commission of India instructed the Mizoram Election Commission to address the problem of exclusion of Bru tribe.

Two immediate causes have been cited for the mass exodus to Tripura in 1997.First,the signing of a  circular by then President of the Bru Student Union,Bruno Msha, which asked all Bru headmen to evacuate their villages and leave Mizoram because of a possible clash between the security personnel in Mizoram and the Bru militants.The President denied of signing such circular.

Secondly,it has been alleged that the Bru National liberation Front (BNLF),formed in 1996 as an arm outfit within the Bru tribe,gunned down an officer of the State Environment and Forests Department in 1997 inside the Dampa Tiger Reserve,which borders with Tripura-Bangladesh.

It was followed by a resolution by the Mizo youths to oust the illegal settlers of Brus and Chakmas within 24 hours.There was widespread burning of houses of Bru tribe.The Brus also burnt their own houses in the hope of getting compensation while leaving the state.

The 1997 displacement was not the last such exodus.Another episode in 2009 led to a second displacement of the Brus.It was alleged that Bru Revolutionary Union killed a Mizo youth.This fuelled another violence in the state where the houses and the villages of the Brus were gutted.

The Hinduism Angle

In 1999,the Bharatiya Janata Party contended that the Brus were persecuted because most of them were Hindus.It was refuted by then Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla who said that the Brus traditionally have been animistic.A research conducted by Brig SK Sharma of Vivekananda International Foundation wrote that: ‘ On January 5th 2017, a Tripura based organization going by the name of Bru Hindu Joint Coordination Committee wrote to the Union Home Ministry asking it to “safeguard the Hindu religion or indigenous faith of the Bru community in Mizoram’.This brough a dirty religious angle to the already never ending problem of the Brus.

Plight of the Brus

The Bru tribe has been labeled as ‘Internally Displaced Community(IDC)’.They live in a very bizzare condtions in the relief camps of Tripura deprived of rations,health and education facilities.The recognition of the tribe has not come from the Tripura Government.It becomes really difficult even to get a birth or death certificate.

Due to lack of proper Identity proof,many of them do not have access to banking facilities.Though it has improved in last few years.It has become difficult for them to even have access to the schemes and programmes announced by the central government.For example,this tribe has been one of the most neglected tribes in terms of entry to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).They have been unable to avail subsidies from the central government.

Since they have been labeled as IDC,they do not own any arable lands that could be used for cultivation.

In 2016-17,the MBDPF appealed to the Supreme Court to direct the Government of India to establish an ADC for the Bru community in accordance with Article 244 (2) of the Constitution read together with the Sixth Schedule.This happened due to a reversal of letter sent to the Minsitry of Home Affairs.The political demands got toned down at the time of the signing the deal but has again awaken after the withdrawal from the agreement.

Personal Blog. For details please mail me at observersindia@gmail.com

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