Explained: Why resettlement of Brus is facing resistance from local ethnic groups
Ten months ago, when the quadripartite agreement that allowed resettling of around 32,000 displaced Brus permanently in Tripura was signed, it looked like the two-decade-old issue of Brus and their search for a new home had ended. But it seems that the agreement has only ignited new fires which are far from being doused. On Saturday, protests against this issue resulted in the death of two persons, including one fireman, and a civilian during the recent clash at Panisagar in North Tripura district.
Why is Brus resettlement facing resistance?
The ‘Nagarik Sukraksha Mancha’ or Citizens Protection Forum, a local Bengali ethnic organisation has been at the centre of protests against the decision of the state and central government to settle the Brus in Kanchanpur sub-division. They allege that after the Bru arrived, many Bengali families were forced to flee from their homes due to their atrocities on them.
Soon after the organisation gained momentum, it received support from the Jamui Hill Mizo Convention to form the Joint Movement Committee which alleged that the Brus resettlement would cause ethnic tension and lead to demographic imbalance.
Why are Bengalis and Mizos opposing the resettlement?
In September this year, the Mancha paired with Mizo organisations and called for an indefinite strike in Kanchanpur and Jampui Hill areas. Their demands include rehabilitating Mizoram’s Bru migrants outside Kanchanpur, and a rehabilitation package for Bengali and Mizo families purportedly evicted from their homes by Bru migrants among others.
In a press conference, Ranjit Nath, president of the Nagarik Suraksha Mancha said that the Tripura government has decided to rehabilitate the Bru migrants. Their rehabilitation was announced all over Tripura. However, preparations are underway to rehabilitate all Bru refugees only in the Kanchanpur subdivision.
“The administration had informed in a meeting about the resettlement of 1,500 Bru families in Kanchanpur subdivision to which we had strongly objected and agreed for settling 500 families in Kanchanpur subdivision. But now, it appears that preparations are underway to rehabilitate 5,000 Bru families in Kanchanpur subdivision," Nath said.
What did the Centre offer in the resettlement package?
In January 2019, Union home minister Amit Shah said that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we had found a permanent solution 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 32,000 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.
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.
What has the state government planned?
The Tripura government had identified a total of 3,600 hectares of land in 11 locations in list one for resettling 4, 900 families comprising 32,000 people across the state.
Of the total identified lands, six locations-- CCRF under Anandabazar, Bikramjoy Para, Nandiram Para, Manu Manpui, Bancharam Pusparam Para, and Kuki Nala area are under North Tripura district.
Two locations in Teliamura and Sikari Bari area under Khowai district, along with West Kalajhari in Amarpur subdivision in Gomati district, one in Dhalai district and Boxanagar in Sepahijala district are also on the list.
What have the Bru leaders said?
Speaking with EastMojo, Bruno Msha, general secretary of Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) said that since 1997, they have been living in the relief camps of Tripura. After two decades of struggle and fight, the centre decided to settle them in Tripura which they have accepted.
“We were supposed to be settled within six months after signing of the agreement in New Delhi. However, due to COVID-19, the process got delayed. We have nothing to say in regards to the protest launched by the two ethnic groups. The government should take the initiative to settle us permanently in those locations approved in the meeting," Msha said.
Political influence in JMC movement
Both the ruling BJP and the opposition CPM have backed the Joint Movement Committee's (JMC) movement to oppose the resettlement of Bru migrants in Kanchanpur sub-division.
The leaders of the BJP and CPIM appeared on the stage of JMC and spoke in support of them which have coined a new equation of politics centering the resettlement of Brus.
However, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) MLA Prem Kumar Reang said he felt sidelined for standing with the Bru refugees on humanitarian ground.
JMC convener Sushant Bikash Barua said, "Our movement has the support of the BJP and the Left Front. The top leadership, including former CPIM district council member Lalit Debnath and BJP Mandal vice president Arun Debnath, were present on one stage with us. They made it clear that the JMC's demand for Bru refugee resettlement was justified, and they are with the JMC."
IPFT says 'conspiracy' behind violence
The ruling coalition partner, the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) has claimed that there was a conspiracy to kill two people in the Panisagar violence over the rehabilitation of Bru refugees.
Mangal Debbarma, assistant general secretary of the IPFT, said efforts were being made to disrupt peace in Tripura. The Joint Movement Committee on displaced Bru rehabilitation has heated up the situation.
He blamed the Joint Movement Committee for the deaths of fireman Biswajit Debbarma and carpenter Srikanth Das in Panisagar on Saturday.
“The state government should immediately arrest the leaders of the committee and provide exemplary punishment. The IPFT would not remain silent unless the JMC leaders are arrested immediately," Mangal said.
He also said that the state government should provide financial assistance of Rs 20 lakh to the families of Srikanth Das and Biswajit Devvarma. He also appealed for maintaining peace in the state.
Opposition party CPIM has said that the interest of the locals should not be hurt while resettling the migrants in the state.
The BJP-led central and state governments are solely responsible for the indefinite strike called by the locals in Kanchanpur centering the Bru migrants resettlement in the sub-division, said Haripada Das, CPIM state office secretary, in a press statement.
“The indefinite strike called by two organisations of Kanchanpur sub-division is being held for four consecutive days over the issue of resettling Bru migrants of Mizoram. Some violent incidents have occurred there on November 17. Normal life has been crippled in the area due to the continued strike”, the press statement reads
CPIM state committee
Saturday's protest and the death of a civilian
One person was shot to death on Saturday by the police during the national highway road blockade called by the Joint Movement Committee (JMC) objecting the resettlement of Bru refugees. The North Tripura district magistrate and the JMC have blamed each other for the incident. Another fireman, Biswajit Debbarma, was lynched by the angry mob succumbed to his injuries in Agartala Govind Ballabh Pant hospital (GBP) on Saturday.
Government orders probe
Law minister Ratan Lal Nath said that magisterial level inquiry would be conducted by the North district magistrate Nagesh Kumar B and submit the report ‘within one month’.
“The chief minister chaired an important meeting with the deputy chief minister in the presence of director general of police VS Yadav and additional director general of police Rajiv Singh and took stock of the situation that led to open firing upon the protest. We have announced a magisterial inquiry by the North district magistrate and also decided to pay Rs 5 lakh to the family of the deceased," Nath said.
Law minsiter Ratan Lal Nath