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Bru resettlement reopens old faultlines between Tripura and Mizoram

The latest comments made by TIPRA Chief Pradyot Manikya has exacerbated the row between Tripura and Mizoram over the Bru resettlement issue. Reang (aka Bru in Mizoram) is one of the 21 scheduled tribes of the Indian state of Tripura. The Brus can be found all over Tripura state in India. They speak the Reang dialect of Kokborok language which is of Tibeto-Burmese origin and is locally referred to as Kau Bru.

In 2018, following the Union Home Ministry’s decision to give voting rights to around 30,000 people who had fled from Mizoram to Tripura in 1997 in the wake of inter-community violence, the Election Commission asked the State of Mizoram to revise its rolls for the 2018 polls and include the members of the internally-displaced community. As many as 32,876 people of the Reang tribe were set to be repatriated to Mizoram after a tripartite agreement was signed between the Centre, Tripura, and Mizoram. On 16 January 2020, a quadripartite agreement was signed among the Centre, state governments of Tripura, and Mizoram and Bru-Reang representatives to facilitate the permanent settlement of Bru refugees from Mizoram in Tripura, benefitting around 34,000 refugees.

Recent Developments

The aforementioned rehabilitation of the Bru Reang re-settlement in Tripura has upset Mizo organizations, which has even led to Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga writing a letter to Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb requesting the latter to reconsider the decision. The point of contention is the resettlement of the Brus near the traditional habitat of Mizos in Jumpui and the surrounding areas under Kanchanpur Sub-Division in North Tripura.

The Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, responded by stating that “the Bru settlement was a long pending issue and finally it came to an end under the leadership of Modi ji. They will be resettled in the state very soon. The state government will decide the place of their settlement”.

The Mizoram CM also raised concerns of ethnic tension as a fallout of the issue. “As you are no doubt aware, there has been ethnic tension and upheaval between Mizos and Brus, both in Mizoram and Tripura and any strain between the two communities in Tripura will no doubt have repercussions in Mizoram and vice versa, which could defeat the very purpose and spirit of the Agreement signed between representatives of the Bru community, Chairman TIPRA, Chief Secretary of Tripura, Chief Secretary of Mizoram, Joint Secretary (Ministry of Home Affairs) on 16.1.2020”, said Zoramthanga.

He again stated, “re-consideration and cancellation of the proposed resettlement of displaced Brus amidst Mizo traditional settlers of Zampui hill area and arrangement of other appropriate locations is inevitable if the historic Agreement signed on 16.1.2020 is to be successfully implemented in letter and spirit”.

A brief glance at the past

As per Director, Rights & Risks Analysis Group, Subhas Chakma’s post, the Maharajas of Tripura dug Dighis (big ponds/lakes) all over the place ranging from present-day Tripura to “Dighinala” (present-day Chittagong Hills Tracts) or Comilla (Bangladesh). Rengdil lake in the Mamit district was dug as part of the tradition followed by Tripura Kings to provide access to water to the people. Now the Mizos attempt to halt Bru rehabilitation has been countered by the Tripuris on this logic that Kumarghat, Manu has historically not been a part of the former claim. The Mizos have been opposing resettlement in these areas.

Also read: ‘Voice of Mizos should be heard’: Mizoram CM on Bru resettlement in Tripura

The contemporary issue

What started out as a rehabilitation problem has turned into a full blown border dispute. It has brought out the lack of demarcated borders in the Northeastern States to the forefront, which has also led to other states such as Nagaland and Assam to spar on border problems.

On the issue of the claim of the land, Pradyot Manikya, who is from the same Royal lineage, replied, “regarding whether Kumarghat, Hawai Bari, Kailashahar, Manu River, Jampui Hills belongs to Tripura or not, I suggest the Govt of Tripura and not me should answer this to those raising the question”.

Course of action

The conflict of interest has arisen not just between Mizos and Tripuris but the indigenous people as well. These people who stay in the CCRF areas of north Tripura now have opposed the resettlement of Brus altogether. The issue has highlighted the internal contradictions of the Northeast and the multifaceted challenges it poses. Much will depend on how each of the stakeholders react to the fallout.

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