Bru women marching from Asapara to Naisingpara in North Tripura district of Tripura
Bru women marching from Asapara to Naisingpara in North Tripura district of Tripura|File image
IN-DEPTH

Bru settlement in Tripura: How the historic pact was made

The recent agreement with Centre ended an over 2-decade-old imbroglio for Brus after they were forced to flee from Mizoram in 1997. We revisit their journey so far

Jayanta K Goswami

Agartala/Aizawl: The recent quadripartite agreement signed by Union home minister Amit Shah with the governments of Mizoram and Tripura and leaders of internally-displaced Bru tribals under the banner of Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum for their rehabilitation in Tripura has been nothing short of historic. For it ended an over two-decade-old imbroglio that started after more than 37,000 Brus were forced to flee from Mizoram’s Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts to Tripura following an ethnic clash with the Mizos in 1997.

They have been languishing in six relief camps in Naisingpara, Ashaparaa, Hezacherra, Kaskau, Khakchangpara and Hamsapara in Kanchanpur and Panisagar subdivisons of Tripura since then.

The Mizoram government have made at least nine attempts to repatriate the Brus since 2009 but they have been refusing to return to the state citing security reasons and insufficient rehabilitation packages offered by the Centre.

As per home department officials, over 8,000 Brus returned to Mizoram, either through repatriation or on their own, between November 2009 and November last year -- during the ninth and final round of repatriation.

Briefing the media soon after signing the quadripartite agreement, Shah said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi a permanent solution has been arrived to the long-standing issue of rehabilitating thousands of Bru/Reang people in Tripura and they can now look towards a bright future. Under the new agreement, he informed, around 34,000 Bru refugees will be settled in Tripura and would be given aid from the Centre to help with their rehabilitation and all-round development through a package of around Rs 600 crore.

Bru people in a relief camp in Tripura
Bru people in a relief camp in Tripura File mage

As per the agreement, the Brus would get all the rights that normal residents of the state get and they would now be able to enjoy the benefits of social welfare schemes of the Centre and State governments. The settlement was reached after detailed discussions held by the Union government with the state governments of Mizoram and Tripura and the representatives of Bru tribe, he added.

The home minister also informed that under the new arrangement, each of the displaced families would be given 40x30 sq ft residential plots, in addition to the aid under the earlier agreement of a fixed deposit of Rs 4 lakh, Rs 5,000 cash aid per month for two years, free ration for two years and Rs 1.5 lakh aid to build their house. The government of Tripura would provide the land under this agreement.

The Union home minister also mentioned how the Northeast is being put on the track of fast-paced development under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. He talked about the recent surrender of 88 armed insurgents of the NLFT (SD) group and assimilating them into the mainstream. “This major step, along with the Bru/Reang agreement, is an important milestone in bringing fast-paced development to the state of Tripura. Soon, a lasting peace would be established in the whole of the Northeast under Prime Minister’s leadership,” he added.

History/legend has it that...

The Brus are the second most populous tribe of Tripura after the Tripuris. According to the legend, a Tripuri prince who was once exiled by the king made his way, along with his followers, to the Mayani Thalang area of Lushai hills and founded a state over there.

He proclaimed himself king and his descendants too ruled over the break-away state for generations. As it sometimes happens, there came a time when there was no heir to succeed to the throne, leading to anarchy in the kingdom.

Banners welcoming Bru families in Mamit district of Mizoram during the ninth and final phase of repatriation from Tripura late last year
Banners welcoming Bru families in Mamit district of Mizoram during the ninth and final phase of repatriation from Tripura late last year File image

Around the same time, bitter feud and internal vendetta saw four chiefs of the following sub-tribes Twikluha, Yongsika, Paisika, Tuibruha leave their hearth and home along with their entourages to migrate back to the state of Tripura. It was a long and difficult journey, fraught with danger and the travellers had to make more than a couple of attempts before they successfully made their way up the Dombur hill.

At the time, Mahendra Manikya ruled the kingdom of Tripura. The chiefs made many attempts to reach the King to request asylum. They approached ministers, bureaucrats, and courtiers for help in arranging a meeting with the King but with no success. By this time, they had exhausted their supplies and were rather anxious to catch the attention of the King.

Finally in desperation, they breached the dam on the river Gumti where worshippers had gathered for prayers. This was a serious crime and all of them were immediately apprehended and brought before the king.

The crime was a serious one and merited capital punishment. But before the King could pass his judgement, the chiefs managed to send word to the Queen Gunoboti. They begged her for help and she persuaded the King to forgive them. The chiefs swore fealty to the Queen and to the throne of Tripura and settled down in the kingdom.

Bru tribals staged indefinite road blockade to press for their various demands last year
Bru tribals staged indefinite road blockade to press for their various demands last year File image

Popular legend has it that the Queen even offered the chiefs breast milk, to symbolise their new parent-child relationship, in a large brass pan which was given to the chiefs along with other valuable things, carefully preserved by Reangs to date.

Ethnic tension

In 1997, following ethnic tension, around 5,000 families comprising around 30,000 Bru/Reang tribals were forced to flee Mizoram and seek shelter in Tripura. These people were housed in temporary camps at Kanchanpur in North Tripura.

Since 2010, the government of India has been making sustained efforts to permanently rehabilitate these refugees. The Union government has been assisting the two state governments for taking care of the refugees. Till 2014, 1,622 Bru/Reang families returned to Mizoram in different batches.

On July 3, 2018, an agreement was signed between the Union government, the two state governments and representatives of Bru/Reang refugees, as a result of which the aid given to these families was increased substantially. Subsequently, 328 families comprising 1,369 individuals returned to Mizoram under the agreement. There had been a sustained demand of most Bru/Reang families that they may be allowed to settle down in Tripura, considering their apprehensions about their security.

Parties react, NGOs express disappointment

With the problems of the internally-displaced people of the Brus in Tripura coming to an end with the signing of the quadripartite agreement between the governments of Tripura and Mizoram, leaders of various Bru organisations and the Centre in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah, various political parties and civil society organisations have reacted to the permanent settlement of the tribal community in the state.

Speaking with EastMojo, Tripura Pradesh Congress Committee president Pijush Kanti Biswas expressed happiness and welcomed the agreement to settle the Brus permanently in Tripura.

“The government has made a promise and they should fulfill it and not betray people unlike every time they did by making fake promises to the people,” Biswas said.

CPI-M senior leader and former Tripura East MP Jitendra Chaudhury said that for almost two decades, although there had been a lot of initiatives for their repatriation, sadly they could not be materialised.

“Since the government has taken the decision, so there should be full-proof arrangements that not only financial packages but land, and proper source of livelihood are given. No inconvenience should be faced by the locals,” Chaudhury said.

On several occasions, Bru families residing at six relief camps in Tripura staged rallies to protest against the repatriation process last year
On several occasions, Bru families residing at six relief camps in Tripura staged rallies to protest against the repatriation process last year File image

“Both the government of Tripura and the Centre have taken an initiative and the decades-long problem will finally be solved. There should be an ideal and proper package,” he added.

Meanwhile, civil society organisations comprising non-tribals in Kanchanpur in North Tripura district expressed their disappointment over the permanent settlement of Brus in Tripura.

Speaking with EastMojo, Nagarik Suraksha Mancha president Ranjit Nath said that they were not happy with the agreement. “We are not happy since there has been a series of clashes between the Bru community and the non-tribals in Kanchanpur ever since they came to Tripura in 1997 following an ethnic clash,” Nath said.

He also said that they would hold a meeting to discuss the next course of action on January 26.

Chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb also reacted to the quadripartite agreement signed in New Delhi on Thursday. Taking to Twitter, he said: “.@mygovindia has also declared Rs.600 crore package for settling displaced #BRU tribals in our State.
Govt will also provide Rs 1.5 lakh housing assistance to the BRU refugees, Rs 4 lakh FD for each family, Rs 5,000 monthly cash assistance & free ration for next two years.”

Deb also wrote on Twitter, “I thank hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji and HM Shri Amit Shah ji for the historic decision of settling of 30000 BRU families in Tripura permanently. I also congratulate our Brothers and Sisters of the BRU community.”

Mizoram parties, NGOs hail historic Bru agreement

Following the signing of a quadripartite agreement with Bru tribals, various political parties and civil society groups in Mizoram have lauded the Centre, governments of Mizorm and Tripura for the historic agreement, which would end more than a two-decade-old imbroglio.

A quadripartite agreement was signed between governments of Tripura and Mizoram, leaders of Bru organisations and the Centre in New Delhi
A quadripartite agreement was signed between governments of Tripura and Mizoram, leaders of Bru organisations and the Centre in New Delhi Twitter

Political parties and NGOs also hailed the agreement as “milestone” in the political history of the state.

Central Young Mizoram Association (CYMA), the largest civil organisation in Mizoram, in a statement expressed happiness over the signing of the agreement, according to which over 30,000 Bru people, who fled Mizoram in 1997, will be settled permanently in Tripura.

The statement said that the Centre and the Mizoram government have been making constant effort to repatriate the Bru tribals, who were also warmly welcomed by the NGOs to return to their villages in Mizoram.

The Bru families refused to return to Mizoram and chose to remain in six relief camps in Tripura despite several rehabilitation packages being offered to them, the statement said.

While lauding the Union ministry of home affairs and Mizoram government, the association said that the signing of the pact was a matter of satisfaction for Mizoram, which has been grappling with the Bru crisis for about 23 years.

“What makes every happy about the agreement is that those Bru voters, who will be settled in Tripura, will now be de-frenchised in Mizoram for good,” the association said in the statement.

State’s apex student body, Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), also thanked the Centre, governments of Mizoram and Tripura and various NGOs for their efforts towards the signing of the Bru agreement.

The student organisation, however, appealed to all repatriated Bru families, to behave properly with the native Mizos for peaceful co-existence.

The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) hailed the quadripartite agreement as a “milestone” and “memorable event” for the people of Mizoram. The party, in its statement, attributed the signing of the peace accord to the efforts made by the Centre, Mizoram government and NGOs.

A agreement was signed between governments of Tripura and Mizoram, leaders of Bru organisations and the Centre in New Delhi
A agreement was signed between governments of Tripura and Mizoram, leaders of Bru organisations and the Centre in New Delhi EastMojo Image

It also wished that the agreement is materialised and remained fruitful.

While expressing happiness over the agreement, the state Congress said that it had made constant efforts to take back the displaced Bru people from Tripura during its regime.

A statement issued by the party said the Congress government had made proposals several times before the Centre and Tripura government that the Bru people, who are unwilling to return to Mizoram, should be allowed to settle in Tripura.

However, the proposals were dashed to the ground because the then CPI-M led Tripura government rejected them, the statement said. “It's a matter of happiness that the Tripura government has finally agreed to harbour the Bru people in its own state,” Congress said in the statement.

The state BJP unit also hailed the agreement and thanked home minister Amit Shah and state NGOs for their initiative towards finding final solution to the Bru crisis.

The party, however, blamed both the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) and Congress for allegedly failing to resolve the Bru crisis for more than two decades.

Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC) also strongly welcomed the agreement and prayed that it is fulfilled without fail.

The party also asked the state government to give utmost concern to the repatriated Bru families in Mizoram to ensure that they led peaceful life and benefited from various development schemes.

In what may be termed as “milestone,” a quadripartite agreement was signed on Thursday among the Centre, governments of Mizoram and Tripura and various Bru associations.

The agreement seeks to grant permanent settlement to the Bru people in Tripura.

According to the agreement, those Bru families, who continue to live in six relief camps in Tripura after November 30, 2019, will be settled permanently in the state and those, who have already returned to Mizoram should not be allowed to go back to Tripura.

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