Violence breaks out over Bru resettlement: A look at why anger over the dispute in Tripura has resurfaced

The violence threatens to reignite the Bru community's internal displacement crisis, which seemed to be heading towards a resolution.

FP Staff November 23, 2020 15:37:30 IST
Violence breaks out over Bru resettlement: A look at why anger over the dispute in Tripura has resurfaced

Joint Movement Committee members clash with the security personnel at Panisagar in North Tripura district on 21 November during a protest against resettlement of displaced Bru migrants in Kanchanpur subdivision of the district. PTI

Protests against the planned resettlement of thousands of Bru migrants in North Tripura turned violent on Saturday, after which two people died in police firing.

This comes about 11 months after an agreement was signed between Mizoram and Tripura to allow the Bru community members to settle in the latter state if they wish to.

The violence threatens to reignite the internal displacement crisis which seemed to be heading towards a resolution.

Recent protests

Although the agreement on the rehabilitation of the Bru community was signed in January, it caused resentment among Bengalis and Mizos in Tripura. The Bengali and Mizo communities claim that settling thousands of migrants permanently at Kanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura, as per the existing proposal, would lead to a demographic imbalance, exert pressure on local resources and could also lead to law and order problems.

In response to the planned resettlement, a Joint Movement Committee (JMC), which demands that not more than 1,500 Bru families should be allowed to settle at Kanchanpur, has been formed. The JMC consists of the Mizo Convention, a local ethnic organisation, and the Nagarik Suraksha Mancha, a newly-formed organisation, according to The Indian Express.

Another point of contention has been the resettlement of 650 Bengali families from around Kanchanpur and 81 Mizo families from Jampui Hill range, who fled allegedly due to atrocities perpetrated by Brus.

On 18 November, a man was seriously injured at Laxmipur village in an alleged attack from a Bru refugee, NDTV quoted sources as saying. On the next day, the JMC called an indefinite shutdown in the Kanchanpur subdivision over the issue.

On 22 November, trouble started when a contingent of police and paramilitary, including Tripura State Rifles (TSR), was involved in a scuffle with JMC activists following an altercation over withdrawal of the road blockade, PTI reported.

JMC convenor Sushanta Baruah alleged that police personnel had opened fire on the protestors "who were demonstrating peacefully" while ADG Rajiv Singh said the police was compelled to fire in self defence since the crowd had turned unruly and tried to snatch weapons from the security personnel.

Two people died in the firing — a 43-year-old carpenter named Srikanta Das and a fire service personnel named Biswajit Debbarma.

Historical background of dispute

The Bru issue had started in September 1997 following demands of a separate autonomous district council by carving out areas of western Mizoram adjoining Bangladesh and Tripura.

About 30,000 Bru tribals had then fled Mizoram due to the ethnic tension there and took shelter in refugee camps in Tripura.

The first attempt to repatriate the Brus was made in November 2009 by the Centre along with the governments of Tripura and Mizoram.

However, the effort had met with little success. A quadripartite accord was signed among the Union Home Ministry, state governments of Mizoram and Tripura and leaders of Bru refugees in January this year to permanently settle Bru evacuees in Tripura.

According to the agreement, members of the Bru community could choose to either live in Tripura or return to Mizoram. However, those who returned to Mizoram cannot come back to live in Tripura. Further, each resettled family is to get 0.03 acre (1.5 ganda) of land for building a home, Rs 1.5 lakh as housing assistance, and Rs 4 lakh as a one-time cash benefit for sustenance, according to The Indian Express.

The Centre has also sanctioned Rs 600 crore as rehabilitation package for the displaced Brus as a final solution to the 23-year-old imbroglio.

With inputs from PTI

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