A scenic village on the Tripura-Mizoram border has found itself at the centre of a jurisdiction dispute between the two states.
Phuldungsai, with a predominantly Mizo population of about 1,064 people, is part of a cluster of 10 villages on Jampui Hills. Betlingchip, Tripura’s highest peak, is in Phuldungsai and is a key tourist destination.
On August 17, Chandni Chandran, Sub-divisional magistrate of Tripura’s Kanchanpur — under which Phuldungsai falls — wrote to DM (North Tripura), stressing that there is an “urgent need to demarcate the exact boundary between Mizoram and Tripura incorporating the entire Phuldungsai VC in Tripura”.
The SDM wrote that a scrutiny of the electoral roll of Mizoram’s Hacchek (ST) constituency found that Phuldungsai village council has been shown under Mizoram’s jurisdiction.
“130 voters in the electoral roll of Zampui Phuldungsai are residents of Tripura. They are present in electoral rolls of Tripura, in ROR of Phuldungsai village council and avail ration facility from Phuldungsai ration shop under Kanchanpur sub-division.
“Traditionally, Phuldungsai VC as a whole (despite eastern side falling in Mizoram) has been accepted as a part of Tripura. Hence, the inclusion of the village council and its residents in Mizoram electoral rolls seems to be problematic,” Chandran wrote.
The Indian Express has learnt that the highest levels of Tripura administration are looking into the matter.
The attempts to demarcate the boundary between Tripura and Mizoram, which were locked in a dispute over resettlement of Bru refugees for decades, have failed in the past, officials said.
In January, the Centre signed a quadripartite agreement to resolve the Bru displacement crisis in Tripura, and announced that over 33,000 migrants living in six relief camps since 1997 would be settled in the state. There has been little progress so far.
“The families were identified based on ration cards. However, Bru forums are claiming ration card records were of 1997 and families have split and expanded since then. They are seeking a fresh survey,” a senior official said.
Significantly, Bru forums have been demanding that they be resettled at Phuldungsai and nearby areas. A dozen forums representing Brus recently wrote to Tripura Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar, identifying themselves as “non-Mizos” and demanding urgent boundary demarcation.
“We, the non-mizo communities under Jampui Hill RD block are in full consent to resettle the Mizoram Bru displaced people permanently at Bettlingchip, Phuldungsai as per earlier verification to protect the traditional boundary of Tripura,” they wrote.
While the fresh row may have been triggered by the electoral list prepared by Mizoram, records show local officials flagged the matter with the Tripura government in the past as well.
In 2010, A Dewanjee, then BDO of Jampui Hills block, had in a report said a stretch of land “measuring 2.5 kms starting from the Bettlingchhip peak up to the approach road of BSF camp has been claimed by some people to be under the possession of Mizoram…”
Dewanjee added that when residents approached the Mizoram government, it showed them a “survey map of 1933 AD where the said portion of land was recorded under the state of Mizoram”.
North Tripura district administration officials, however, said Phuldungsai has been listed as a Sabulal autonomous district council village in revenue records of the state for decades.
“Mizoram claims that the eastern side of the village on the other side of a PWD road falls under its jurisdiction. But facts say otherwise. Tripura runs health centres, schools in the area,” a senior official said.
Mizoram’s Hacchek (ST) constituency, under which Phuldungsai has been listed, is in Mamit district. When contacted, Mamit DM Dr Lalrozama said, “While I am not immediately aware of any communication from Tripura on this issue, I believe the electoral rolls have been prepared in connection with village council polls in Mizoram. As far as Phuldungsai is concerned, one part of the village comes under Tripura and another in Mizoram. A road that goes through the village connects the two states.”
Incidentally, Mizoram CM Zoramthanga had in March written to Union Minister Amit Shah and Tripura CM Biplab Deb, saying resettling displaced Brus in Jampui Hills dominated by Mizos would defeat the purpose of the quadripartite agreement.
Meanwhile, Tripura royal scion Pradyot Manikya Debbarman, who is chairman of Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance, told The Indian Express that he had raised the matter with CM Deb. “The CM must protect Tripura’s territorial integrity. At least, the Chief Secretary should raise this with his Mizoram counterpart.”