The Politics of the Bru Tribe in Northeast’s Sole Non-BJP State

NORTH EAST

The Bru are an indigenous tribe of the Northeast who are living in refugee camps in Tripura after being displaced due to ethnic conflict in Mizoram in 1997. The Home Ministry’s decision to transport them back to Mizoram can be a difficult yet dynamic challenge for the ruling government to reinstate its power over the state of Mizoram.  

Sundaresha D. S. / The New Leam

The Bru are a tribe who were compelled to leave their homeland in Mizoram in 1997 after a spout of ethnic violence. Most of these refugees now inhabit Tripura in relief camps.

The Ministry of home affairs has directed Bru refugees to return to Mizoram by the end of September. If they fail to do so the government would withdraw all form of facilitates from the Bru refugees. The sub-division magistrate of Panisagar in North Tripura district has issued a notice on Saturday that the allowance of Bru refugees would discontinue from September 25. 

The Bru tribe was forced to flee to Tripura

The Bru are refugees in Mizoram. There was an allegation that a Mizo forest guard at the Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram’s Mamit district was killed by Bru militants in 1997. Consequently the entire Bru community had to flee from Mizoram to its neighbouring state Tripura.   A large number of Mizoram’s people considered the Bru to be a non- indigenous community. They demanded that the Bru people should be left out of the state’s electoral roll. The Bru community took refuge in a town called Kanchanpur in north Tripura.  32,857 people belonging to 5,413 Bru families are living in refugees’ camps at the Jampui Hills of Tripura.  An important question that remains unaddressed is whether the Bru tribe will ever be welcome in its indigenous home state of Mizoram after more than two decades of facing exile.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister of Mizoram, Pu Lalthanhawla, after the signing of agreement on repatriation of Brus to Mizoram, in New Delhi on July 03, 2018. Image Source : Twitter

Once again allegation was put on Bru community after 12 years. In November 2009, it was reported that Bru militants have killed a Mizo teenager. As a result, once again Bru community moved towards Tripura state.  The leaders of Bru refugees and government officials are not able to arrive at an amicable solution. The central government provides each Bru adult an allowance of Rs 5 per day and 600 gms of rice while the minors get 2.5 and 250 gms of rice in a day.

There has been an attempt to send the Bru refugees back to their home state. The central govt offered a “final package” that comprises housing assistance worth Rs 1, 20,000, a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 per family, free rations for the next two years in addition to 0.2 hectares per family.  Sawibunga, president of the Bru Displaced People’s Forum, did not agree to the offer. Bru refugees demanded 5, 00,000 and payment of an additional one-time gratuity of Rs 10, 00,000 per family. The primary disagreement is not about money but about land. Their demand is for at least five hectares. Further, Bru refugee leaders alleged that the Mizoram government is not serious about welcoming them to their home state.

Mizoram is the only non-BJP State in North-East

The Home Minsitry’s decision comes ahead of the date of elections in Mizoram, which happens to be the only non-BJP state of the Northeast. It is the time to update the electoral rolls of Mizoram. Whether or not the Bru people are sent back to Tripura will impact the result of the elections profoundly. The ability to send back people to Tripura may win votes for the BJP in the elections by making the Mizos happy but it will remain to be seen how the Bru are dealt with both through their remaining days in the relief camps and when they return back to Mizoram.  After more than two decades of living in exile, whether or not they gain their acceptability in the home state will determine their affiliation to the BJP to a great extent.

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