Tuesday 16 June 2015

The 'Bru' Issue | The tribe, Repatriation, IDPs or Refugees

Source: Indian Express

Why in news?
The process of repatriation of displaced Bru tribals from Tripura to Mizoram that began in 2010 is set to be wound up. The final repatriation process began on June 2, 2015But like earlier attempts, this phase too has seen little success

Who are Bru (Reangs)?

The Bru people (also referred to as Reangs), were inhabitants of Mizoram who were displaced from Mizoram in 1997 on account of ethnic conflicts. Most of the Brus (Reangs) were originally resident of about 100 habitations in Mammit Sub-Division of Aizawl District. Reang or Riangare are one of the 21 scheduled tribes of the Indian state of Tripura.

Why did Bru (Reangs) flee Mizoram, reasons for the Exodus?
In 1997, nearly 50,000 Brus had to flee from Mammit district in Mizoram to neighbouring Tripura. The reasons for this Exodus from Mizoram were:-
  1. The bloody ethnic conflict that was triggered by the murder of a Mizo forest guard on 29/10/1997 in the Dampa Tiger Reserve, which was attributed to the underground Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF)
  2. The demand raised by Bru National Liberation Front, the Reang (Bru) community for exclusive Autonomous District Council for them was resisted by majority Mizo community of the State, which had resulted threatening and intimidation.
  3. Traditional rivalry from Mizo Community.

Is the demand by Bru (Reangs) people a common one?

Yes. The demand for an autonomous district council is common among the minority tribes living within states in the North-east that are ruled by a dominant ethnic group. The Bodos of Assam, for instance, have the Bodoland Territorial Council, an autonomous body that is a euphemism (to say a bad thing in a good manner) for a state within a state.

What is the present situation of Bru people?

Miserable. The 35,000 Bru evacuees (their population has grown since 1997) are still living in 6 camps in Naisingpara, Tripura.

Some Brus also migrated to Assam following the ethnic conflict. The Brus in the camps afflicted by various diseases like malaria during the monsoon and lack medical care. Many have died due to diseases.

The Tripura government is unwilling to shoulder the burden of educating the Bru children or giving them the health facilities it provides its own citizens. And the compensation package worked out is ridiculously low. For Brus, it’s a life worse than that of a slum-dweller.

What are the reasons for the delay in the Bru (Reang) repatriation process?

Repeated attempts to resettle the Brus back in Mizoram after the intervention of the Union home ministry have met with setbacks. While govt representatives presented a clear road map about the different phases during which batches of Brus would be brought back to Mizoram, the process continues to be tardy and insensitive. The reasons are:-

1) The tension between the civil society groups.
2) The government of Mizoram is clearly dithering as it is unwilling to offend Mizo sensibilities.
3) The weird coincidence is that each time a repatriation process is in the offing, some violent incidents spark off and block the process and sometimes even spark off a further exodus. Thus, there exists a clever, manipulative and pernicious hand behind these sudden bouts of violence is very clear.

Why is the current repatriation process especially significant?
Mizo groups have been upset over the perceived negative publicity the Bru issue has brought. Matters came to a head before last year’s Lok Sabha elections — more than 11,000 Brus have voting rights in Mizoram, even though, Mizo groups allege, they have refused to return. A statewide bandh was called in April 2014, which helped speed up matters. 
In January 2015, the Home Ministry, Tripura and Mizoram agreed to a final round of repatriation, with the condition that any Brus who still refused to return would be removed from Mizoram’s electoral rolls, and rations and relief to them would be stopped. 
A roadmap was prepared, which was accepted by the Social Justice Bench of the Supreme Court, which is hearing a bunch of petitions related to the case. 
The final repatriation process began on June 2, 2015.

Why is the Bru repatriation experience significant? 
  • Shows the difference in the ways different displaced populations are treated in India. 
  • Several other Northeast tribal groups fleeing ethnic violence have escaped being confined to relief camps, and the displaced Brus have been seeking relief on par with Kashmiri Pandits and the Sri Lankan Tamils refugees
  • The Brus have been in their camps for a generation, but their story remains unknown in most of India. 
  • The halting repatriation process has lessons for the handling of possible future displacement crises and resettlement efforts.

The Political / other bodies of Brus (Reangs):

The underground outfits of the Brus, namely the BNLF and the Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram had surrendered in 2001 and 2006 respectively after being promised speedy repatriation of their people to Mizoram.

A Political body: Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Forum and the apex body of the Bru community — the Bru Coordination Committee.

Are Brus (Reangs) Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons?

Actually Bru are not refugees by definition but ‘Internally Displaced Persons’.

Difference b/w a Refugee and an Internally Displaced person

IDP' are those who have had to flee from one state to another within a country on account of political causes, including secessionist movements; identity-based autonomy movements; localised violence; environment and development-induced displacement; and religion-based violence and displacement.

Refugees, on the other hand, are international migrants who have fled their country on account of wars, ethnic violence or for economic reasons. Refugees are people in need of sanctuary and are usually received and treated as temporary guests of a country.

Something about Bru (Reang) Community

  • Reang or Riangare are one of the 21 scheduled tribes of the Indian state of Tripura.
  • The correct nomenclature for this ethnic group is actually Bru although the name Reang was accidentally incorporated by the Indian government during a census count.
  • The Bru can be found mainly in the North Tripura, Dhalai and the South Tripura districts of Tripura state in India. (there is one more district called West tripura - Agartala is part of that)
    • However, they may also be found in Mizoram, Assam, Manipur and Bangladesh.
  • They speak the Reang dialect which is of Tibeto-Burmese origin and is locally referred to as Kau Bru
  • Like many of the tribes in the north east of India, the appearance of the Bru is mongoloid.

Primarily an agrarian tribe.
In the past, they mostly practiced the Huk or Jhum cultivation

Dance and music:
Dance is an integral part of Reang life. The Hojagiri folk dance of Riang sub tribe is rather well known all over the world.


 [Sources: Indian Express, Wikipedia, The Hindu]


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