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Brus resettlement: A saga of conflict, interests and rights

The Bru resettlement process has once again been marred by serious protests and confrontations between several local communities, who fear that the process would disturb local ecology.

The Brus fled from Mizoram and took shelter in Tripura’s six relief camps based in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-division of North Tripura district. After 23 long years, the issue was resolved after a quadripartite meeting presided over by Home Minister Amit Shah, who gave the official nod to resettle them in Tripura as its citizens.

Since then, the story has taken an interesting turn. Some of the community leaders have pointed out that the Bru resettlement will further escalate communal cracks in the future, given the historical backdrop. However, the Brus are still harping on the commitments made by the Tripura government.

A census on the Brus is under process and soon the exact number of refugees still in relief camps will be figured out.

The current wave

Since the last few days, the resettlement process has once again evoked interest after Mizoram Chief Minister, in a letter to the Chief Minister of Tripura, asked him to consider the pleas made by local Mizos. But this was countered with strong arguments from his Tripura counterpart.

Though the spell of protests which had spilled over North Tripura and some of the proposed locations, witnessed a stalemate due to COVID 19, there is still a palpable sense of tension simmering around the subject of the Bru resettlement. In Kanchanpura, Mizo convention and Nagarik Suraksha Mancha came under the same umbrella and protested the government’s decision to allow encroaching of the Central Catchment Reserve Forest (CCRF) land which falls in the vicinity of the Mizo settlement.

What the Brus say

Bru leader Bruno Masho speaking to the Inside Northeast exclusively revealed, the government as of now, has taken us to visit 12 to 15 proposed lands that are meant to give us a settlement. These areas are scattered in 6 among the 8 districts of the state—North Tripura, Unakoti, Dhalai, Khowai, West Tripura, and Sepahijala. “We have visited all the areas along with a team of officials. But, to an utter disappointment, locals of the area are not ready to accept us as their neighbors,” he added.

Also read: Bru resettlement reopens old faultlines between Tripura and Mizoram

One being asked on their view, he said, as per the resettlement pact signed on January 16, 2019, all of the 35,000 to 40,000 Bru community leaders will be settled here in Tripura in small clusters. In the spot visiting exercises too, the Brus are told that the small clusters will be settled in the proposed lands. “But”, he said, “What we have experienced there is the locals who are fomenting trouble and are carrying out all-out efforts to tarnish our community image among the locals so that despite being sympathetic to our hardships, people do not feel moved and allow us to settle in their neighborhood”. On being asked specifically about the reason, he said, there might have been some under carpet politics to defer our resettlement process. The narrow political blame game has once again come into play, he sharply pointed out. He said, in Kanchanpur, the Mizo convention and the Nagarik Suraksha Mancha are playing a key role in instigating the protests wherein Unakoti, the Bengali community people hailing from both the religious group Hindu and Bengalis come against them. Similar protests are seen from the part of the Chakma community people. But he felt that all these protests were largely influenced by the protests of Mizo convention and Nagarik Suraksha Mancha.

What the Mizos say

Mizos living in the Jampui hills are always seen as a dominating power in the peripheries due to their sophisticated lifestyle and philanthropic activities. Thus Mizo convention has grown up as a deciding factor in the Jampui hills which have intensely gone against the resettlement of Brus.
Dr. Z Pichau the General Secretary of Mizo convention speaking to Inside Northeast said, “Mizos and Brus are historically the tribes most attached to each other socially, economically, and to a great extent religiously as huge proportions of Brus are Christians. Our concern is just that if this huge number of Mizoram refugees are to be permanently settled near our traditional land of Jampui Hill, there will be disturbances in demography, social cohesion pattern, ecology, and environment. This is because, our Hill does not have adequate forest resources, lands for cultivation, and other natural resources to cater for such sudden population explosion. This is the fact”. He also ruled out that there were no communal issued but when it comes to save the ecology all the organizations working in the same cause should come forward.

He rather pointed out that the settlement of Brus should be done in areas located close to towns for a better economic perspective of the Brus. “It’s also better economically for our Mizoram Bru brethren to be rehabilitated in places closer to major national highways, towns, and at other vast empty lands where farming can be practiced in a more sustainable and productive way. And it’s good for both communities to maintain a healthy distance from each other. We both need it to help each other better. This will prevent flaring up of communal issues from the slightest of misunderstandings and ensure 1997-like ugly incident never happen again!”, a long article written by Dr Pichau reads.

The Nagarik Suraksha Mancha

The Nagarik Suraksha Mancha movement began when the miscreants suspected to be from the Bru relief camps lashed out a series of violent attacks in the Kanchanpur region during the Anti-CAA protests. The local Bengali community people come under one organization and pleaded the government to expedite the repatriation process at the earliest who feared communal clashes might have been broken out between Bengalis and Brus.
Speaking to this reporter, Nagarik Sukrasha Mancha leader Diptendu Nath said, “There is a rationale behind our demand. The Brus are associated with several kinds of anti-social activities if they are once again settled here as Tripura citizens they will once again pose similar problems before us. We need the issue to be sorted out and we are continuously meeting the local administration and apprising prevailing situation”.

What Tripura’s other indigenous tribes say

By and large, there are no hard-hitting comments coming from the local community leaders but there is a palpable undercurrent. “In some areas of North and Khoai district the local tribals have set up makeshift huts in the forest land they have been entitled to carry out cultivation through Patta(lease). The development came right after, some of the spots proposed for Bru settlement had been visited. The attitude showed as to how the locals are indifferent to the Brus,” a higher official in the condition of anonymity had said.

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