Police in Mizoram have begun investigations against a Bru leader and a national newspaper that quoted him as saying Mizos had burned down more than a dozen Bru houses and assaulted members of the minority community two weeks ago.
A senior police official from Mamit district in western Mizoram said investigators have found no evidence of Mizos burning Bru houses or assaulting members of the Bru tribe and is seeking replies from both the newspaper and the Bru leader.
A report in a national newspaper had quoted Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum president A Sawibunga as having attributed such incidents as the reason for scores of Bru families fleeing to Tripura in mid-January.
Mizoram had been on edge with ethnic tension at the time over the November 23 kidnapping for ransom of three men — two Mizo drivers and a telecommunications professional from West Bengal — by National Liberation Front of Tripura cadres aided by Bru militants (While the two Mizos have been released after spending two months in captivity in the jungles of eastern Bangladesh, the telecom professional remains in the militants’ hands).
With Mizo groups planning massive voluntary search operations to look for the missing mean shortly before the duo’s release, scores of Bru families from at least three villages in Mizoram had fled to neighboring Tripura or taken shelter in their farms fearing potential ethnic conflict. Some also reportedly sought refuge in Mizo-dominated villages.
Police said they have not found any cases of houses being burned or people being physically assaulted after an NGO filed an FIR against Sawibunga, who resides in the Bru Naisingpara relief camp in Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division within North Tripura district.
The Mizoram government has also taken the allegations seriously, with Home Minister R Lalzirliana saying Chief Secretary L Tochhong has been asked to look into the matter.
Investigators said Sawibunga had denied having said any such thing to the national newspaper and were understood to have tried contacting the daily’s editorial staff Monday. Sawibunga’s cellphone remained switched-off when The Indian Express tried to contact him.
He had last week also been quoted by The Aizawl Post, a Mizo daily, as saying he did not make any allegations of house-burning or physical assault by Mizos to the national newspaper.
A police official said an FIR is likely to be filed after initial inquiries with the Tripura police since Sawibunga is based there and also because the news report originated from Agartala, Tripura’s capital.