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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Explained: Why the protests against Bru resettlement in Tripura have flared up now

At least one person was killed in police firing, while there were 15 police personnel among the 23 other injured.

Written by Debraj Deb , Edited by Explained Desk | Agartala | Updated: November 25, 2020 6:47:15 am
North Tripura: A vehicle in flames during a protest by the Joint Movement Committee (JMC) against the resettlement of displaced Bru migrants in Kanchanpur sub-division, at Panisagar in North Tripura district, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (PTI)

PARTS OF North Tripura have witnessed violent protests recently over the proposed resettlement of Bru tribals. One person was killed in police firing on Saturday, a Fire Service personnel died of injuries in hospital, and 23 people including 15 police personnel were injured.

What are the protests about?

In 1997, 37,000 people of the Bru (or Reang) tribe fled to Tripura from Mizoram, on account of ethnic clashes there. Since then, 5,000 have returned to Mizoram while 32,000 remain in camps in Tripura. In January this year, an agreement was signed by the Centre, the two state governments and Bru representatives to allow the remaining 32,000 to permanently settle in the state.

This led to protests from Bengali and Mizo groups in Tripura. They claim that settling thousands of migrants permanently in Kanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura district would lead to demographic imbalance, exert pressure on local resources and potentially lead to law and order problems.

Who are the Brus?

They are a community indigenous to the Northeast, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram, and Assam. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group. In Mizoram, they were targeted by ethnic organisations who demanded that the Brus be excluded from electoral rolls.

How did the protests in Tripura develop?

It started with memoranda, demonstrations and press conferences of a newly formed organisation called Nagarik Suraksha Mancha. These escalated to highway blockades and violent clashes with police.

The Mizo Convention, a Tripura-based organisation, has teamed up with the Mancha on a platform called Joint Movement Committee (JMC) and announced that not more than 1,500 Bru families would be allowed to settle in Kanchanpur.

Do the Brus have any support in Tripura?

The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) chaired by Pradyot Deb Barman, scion of the erstwhile Tripura royal family and formerly a Congress leader, has thrown its support behind the Brus. Pradyot has demanded action against the killers of the fireman, and called for peace.

The opposition Congress and CPM, on the other hand, have criticised the police firing.

What is the resettlement plan?

Over the last 10 months, the state has planned 12 resettlement spots across six districts with 300 families each. Under the agreement, the Centre has announced a special development project with funding of Rs 600 crore. Each resettled family will get an estimated 0.03 acres (1.5 gandas) 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, a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 and free rations for two years from the date of resettlement.

If it was agreed, why the protests?

JMC convener Sushanta Baruah said the agitation was started to save “ancestral lands” from Bru migrants. “Though opposed to the whole idea of having more people permanently settle within limited resources of the area, we honoured the agreement signed by central and state governments and agreed to it. But now the district administration has proposed to set up six of 12 resettlement sites in Kanchanpur alone and settle 5,000 families here,” Baruah said. He alleged that 650 Bengali families from around Kanchanpur and 81 Mizo families from Jampui Hill range, who fled due to “atrocities” by Brus, were yet to be resettled two decades on.

What is the government stand?

The Revenue Department has stressed that Bru migrants would be settled in various locations identified in six districts. The government has clarified that concerns about the migrants being settled in one place are false, and appealed to people to refrain from sharing such content on social media.

Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Chandni Chandran denied having received any policy decision regarding settling 5,000 migrant families within her jurisdiction. The selection of families of resettlement is still in progress and no figure can be cited now, she told The Indian Express.

A letter from the North Tripura District Magistrate to the Officer on Special Duty of the Revenue Department, dated October 28, reads that the district administration had estimated the fund requirement for permanent settlement of 6,000 Bru migrants in the district. The figures in the letter show that 5,000 Bru families were estimated to be resettled in six locations in Kanchanpur sub-division.

How have the Brus reacted?

Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum general secretary Bruno Msha said the agitation has left migrants in fear and uncertainty. “We are suffering an economic blockade due to this movement. We haven’t received foodgrains as per our relief package this month and if this strike continues, we don’t know how long we can put up,” he said, urging the government to ensure law and order.

 

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