A week after an indefinite strike started at Kanchanpur in Tripura’s north district against the government’s formula to resettle 32 thousand Bru migrants here, Joint Movement Committee (JMC), a forum of few local ethnic civil societies Tuesday ‘temporarily’ called off the protest after assurances from the government on considering their demands.
The strike was rolled back three days after a violent clash between the protesters and state police at Panisagar, where the former tried to block National Highway 08, and which left two dead and 23 others injured.
Speaking to indianexpress.com this morning, JMC convener Sushanta Baruah said they were assured at a marathon meeting with elected public representatives and government officials on Monday that their demands would be considered positively.
“We have demanded Rs 20 lakh compensation for our supporter killed in police firing, a government job to his next kin as per the qualification, treatment for those injured in the clash with police and a financial package for reparation of damaged vehicles and property in the incident. The government has sympathised with our demands and said they would be considered. We have, therefore, decided to temporarily call off the strike”, Baruah said.
However, the protest has been called off only temporarily and if the demands aren’t met in some time, the agitation would renew soon, the leader has clarified.
On their stand against settling 5,000 out of 32,000 Bru migrants living in the state at Kanchanpur sub-division as per the purported government formula, Baruah said they were assured that the migrants would be settled equally across six districts of Tripura and no undue pressure would be exerted on any one place.
“Our main demand that started the strike was that Bru migrants can’t be settled in large numbers at Kanchanpur, disturbing the local demographic balance. The government has assured us that they would be settled equally in six districts. There were more issues discussed, which we aren’t divulging right away since we are expecting to sit in dialogue with the government in a day or two”, the JMC leader stated.
Local MLA Bhagaban Das, who engineered the dialogue with the agitating body, told indianexpress.com that talks were held in two phases and have gone positively so far. “The discussion has concluded that both sides will have to sacrifice something and the indefinite strike was withdrawn today”, the legislator said.
However, the local administration doesn’t have any revised instruction for resettling the Bru migrants.
Meanwhile, different social organisations and tribal civil societies have come out in protest against the impasse at Kanchanpur over the indefinite strike and two fatalities in a subsequent clash between protesters and police at Panisagar in North Tripura two days back. Mizo Tripura Kshatriya Samaj, Bru Motha, Jamatia Hoda, Noatia Hoda, Bru Socio-Cultural Organization, Tripura Chubalal Buthu – all tribal customary social organizations, have blamed the state government for failure in effectively handling the Bru resettlement issue.
“There is no presence of administration at Kanchanpur for a week. Rule of law has effectively vanished as health, public distribution and other essential government services have fallen facedown there. The situation has gone south since the government failed to take proper steps in time”, the tribal leaders told reporters here in a press conference and claimed the resettlement process would not disturb anyone’s interest.
Meanwhile, other tribal organisations like the Mizo Peoples Convention (Manipur) have accused the government of disregarding the interests of locals to resettle Mizoram’s migrants in Tripura. “The government should have listened to demands placed forth by local people through democratic means. Instead, they chose to turn a deaf ear to them”, the organization said in a press statement.
Tripura’s ruling ally Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) has come out in protest against the incident. The tribal party’s spokesperson Mangal Debbarma has demanded punishment for JMC leaders and Rs. 20 lakh compensation for families of the protester and a fire service personnel killed in a clash at Panisagar.
State Congress president Pijush Kanti Biswas has expressed dismay at the failure of the state government in containing the movement and criticised the decision to shoot at protesters. Opposition CPIM has criticised firing on agitators, appealed to the protesters to withdraw agitation and initiate dialogue and demanded that the resettlement be processed without hurting the interests of local residents.
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