Monday, February 27, 2006

Despair in Bru IDP camps in India

From 2-4 January 2006, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights, Mr Suhas Chakma visited the Bru Internally Displaced Persons’ camps under Kanchanpur Sub-Division of Tripura State of India. More than five months have elapsed since the members of the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) surrendered on 25 July 2005 pursuant to the 10-point Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the BNLF and the Mizoram government on 26 April 2005. But not a single internally displaced Bru from Mizoram has yet been repatriated. The return of the Brus, also known as the Reangs, appears to have ended with the return of 273 Brus consisting of the BNLF cadres and their family members.
About 30,000 Brus fled from Mizoram State of India to Tripura to escape from a campaign of terror against them by members of the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (Mizo Students Union) and Young Mizo Association (YMA). From 15 October 1997 onwards, Reangs from Tungbagin, Kawnmun, Pheileng, Laxmicheraa, Kwartha, Rangdil, Fileng and Tuipuibari areas of Aizwal district of Mizoram fled to neighbouring States to escape from persecution and repression by the MZP activists. It was reported that sixteen people were killed and twenty women were gang-raped in the initial terrorizing campaign. The Mizoram Police remained mute witness as the MZP activists torched the Reang villages and committed these atrocities. The Mizoram Police reportedly also participated in the mass evictions of the Reangs.
Since then they have been housed in six relief camps under Kanchanpur Sub-Division of Tripura. Despite the directions of National Human Rights Commission of India in October 1999, Mizoram government refused to take back the Reangs.
The YMA and MZP systematically used voter list to identify the Reangs as outsiders. On the direction of the Election Commission of India, many were enrolled in the voter list. However, only 1733 out of 2406 voters in Kawrthah and 971 out of the total 1240 voters in Phuldungsei constituencies could cast their votes through postal ballots in the bye-elections held on 10 December 2005 as the YMA and MZP members physically prevented them from exercising their constitutional rights.
I. Failure of the MoU
After 13th rounds of talks, the BNLF and state government of Mizoram signed the MoU. It was clear from the opinions of the displaced Brus that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Mizoram government and BNLF has failed to resolve the Bru insurgency. It does not address the problems of displaced Brus who constitute the overwhelming majority of the Brus of Mizoram. It only attempts to rehabilitate the BNLF cadres.
There is no general amnesty for those living in the camps, guarantees for security, compensation for the properties lost and/or damaged, restoration of the lands to the original owners, and proper and adequate rehabilitation of the displaced Brus within a specific time frame. Nothing reflects more acutely the repressive policies of the Mizoram government than the murder of Hulendra Reang in August 2005 by Mizoram Police after entering into Tripura.
The MoU of 26 April 2005 does not mention specific number of Bru refugees in the Tripura camps to be returned or time frame for their repatriation. Rather, the MoU provides for the identification of the so called genuine Brus by the State government of Mizoram. It is nothing but a ploy not to take back majority of the displaced Brus and exposes Mizoram government's tacit support to the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) and Young Mizo Association (YMA) which first systematically deleted the Brus from the voter lists and then uprooted them from their hearts and homes.
The Brus are unlikely to be included in the voter lists on their return. There is no rule of law or due process of law as Mizoram government often abdicates its responsibility to the non-State actors like YMA and MZP to delete the minorities in the State from the voter list.
Yet, the government of India announced a Rs 28 crore package for the rehabilitation of Brus. It was unwise to declare the package without specifying the time frame for the return of the Brus from Tripura and the package for each family. Since the Mizoram government refuses to take back all the Brus, are we to presume that Mizoram government will take back all of them or is it a case that Central government has already accepted the number of Brus to be repatriated? Unless the displaced Brus are rehabilitated, new-armed opposition group such as the Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM) will emerge.
II. Despair in the relief camps
During the visit to the relief camps under Kanchanpur sub-division in North Tripura from 2-4 January 2006, Asian Centre for Human Rights found the conditions of over 34,000 displaced Brus in the camps in North Tripura as sub-human. It is clear that Tripura government does not believe in "Athithi Deva Bhava".
The daily cash dole of Rs 2.90 i.e. Rs 87/- per month given to each adult Bru is extremely discriminatory considering that displaced Kashmiri pandits from Jammu and Kashmir are provided Rs 800/- per month.
Since 2001, the new-born babies have been included only in the census but not in the relief cards to make them eligible for food items. Those who have become adult in the last five years continue to be given rations as minor. In any case, the ration of 450 grams of rice is so inadequate that displaced Brus do not even report death as it means further reduction of the rations being provided. Although officials claimed that dal and coconut oil are being provided, it was a news to the Brus.
Medical facilities are non-existent and the expenditures of the State government do not show medical expenses. Doctors have allegedly not visited the relief camps from six months to one and half year now. Only when the death of the Brus takes epidemic proportion, the doctors visit the camps. The conditions of children and pregnant women are the worst. As there are no primary health care centers, pregnant women are forced to deliver at the relief camps. Maternity death is quite high and as are also the common diseases.
Most tube wells are out of order. The Brus are forced to drink water from the streams and ponds, thereby causing water-born diseases. Sanitation facilities are non-existent.
The Tripura government has made a mockery of the right to education, as it has not provided any educational facilities to the children in the camps. Even the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Education for All) has not been extended to the Bru relief camps. Effectively, over 5,000 minors have been denied the right to education and an entire generation of the Brus has been kept illiterate in the last eight years. The policy of the Tripura government on denying the right to education to the Brus is no less condemnable than the practices of the Mizoram government.
III. Conclusion
There is no doubt that Reangs have been displaced essentially because of the xenophobic reaction. The refusal of the State government of Mizoram has also exposes negative sides of federalism where a State can allow non-State actors to perpetrate essentially a racist and ethnic cleansing programme and question bonafide of the victims.
As regard to the IDP camp conditions, India seriously needs a policy to improve the deplorable conditions of the conflict-induced displaced persons.
Hindustan Times, October 22, 2005 Saturday
New Delhi, Oct. 22 -- Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today deplored continuing senseless killings of the Dimashas and Karbis in Assam.
About 88 persons have been killed till Friday, hundreds of houses gutted and about 20,000 people internally displaced who are desperate need for food, medicine, drinking water and physical security.
"Indiscriminate killings of the civilians and burning down of villages both by the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) and United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) violate the basic principles of international humanitarian law standards and constitute crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court. Nothing can justify the killing of innocent civilians,"said Suhas Chakma, the Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.
"The issue is not only ensuring respect for cease-fire ground rules or disarming the armed groups as stressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs but also identifying the culprits responsible for the killings and leaders who have been organizing the carnage, and prosecuting them for crimes against humanity. Unless the culprits are brought to justice, such wanton killings will recur and the North East will become akin to the Great Lakes region of Africa," Chakma added.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights urged the Union Home Ministry and theState government of Assam to immediately provide humanitarian assistance tothe displaced Dimashas and Karbis at par with assistance given to the KashmiriPandits and ensure adequate security by deploying adequate security forceswithout any further delay.
Brus Bid Farewell To Arms, But What About IDPs?
Meera Sundar,Financial Times Information
The Mizoram government can finally heave a sigh of relief with the conclusion of a critical stage of a decade-long problem in the Mizo capital of Aizawl recently. It is not just about one more pact in Mizoram. It is the outcome of protracted negotiations between the state government and the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) for over four years in which 12 rounds of talks finally culminated in a solution agreeable to both sides: the rebels surrendered their arms and ammunition at Tuipuibari Transit Camp in western Mizoram. The BNLF, headed by its president Surjaya Moni Reang and general secretary Solomon Prophul Ushoy, had formally laid down arms, consisting of AK-47s, M-16s and SL rifles, a small batch of nine weapons with more than 600 rounds of ammunition.At least 195 Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) cadres and their families totalling 285 people were transported from the Naisingpara camp in Tripura in 30pick-ups and 10 medium trucks with police escort. The camp, now called Sidan Transit Camp, has 42 houses to accommodate all these families. Electricity, water supply and other household facilities have been provided. Senior doctors have conducted medical check-ups of the rebels on their arrival at the camp. Mizoram home minister Tawnluia declared that the state government would take all steps to accelerate the pace of development in the western belt of Mizoram covering Bru (also known as Reangs) settlements. A special development project will be implemented, depending upon the quantum of financial assistance received from the Centre, he said. Earlier, during the visit by Union home minister Shivraj Patil, it was announced that the Centre would provide Rs 28 crore for the rehabilitation of the rebels. But now an even bigger task confronts the state government, after the paper work of the peace accord: the repatriation process of the BNLF displaced, driven out by the Mizos in 1997 and who took refuge in neighbouring Tripura. The main difference between Tripura and Mizoram is over the number of Bru refugees, who had been displaced from their homes and villages. The Mizo government says 17,000 Brus had left for Tripura in 1977 (as internally displaced people or IDPs), while Tripura says some 33,000 people were sheltered in six north Tripura camps. In addition, there was no time frame for repatriation proposed in the peace accord between the Mizoram government and BNLF, signed in April. Already, the powerful NGOs in the state have sent astrong message to the state government that proper identification of Brus ofMizo origin from those in the Tripura camps should be prioritised. These groups also asserted that the 1995 voters list should be used to identify whether ornot the person was a Mizoram resident. But officials here say that the government would take effective steps to take back the bona fide residents ofMizoram and a special development project will be implemented, depending upon the size of the financial assistance from the Centre. The BNLF, floated in 1997,had demanded a separate autonomous district council for the Brus carved out from the northwestern parts of the state. After local tension, following the deathof a Mizo forest officer in the hands of Brus, many Bru families left forTripura in October 1997. Other Brus joined them later in 1998, swelling their numbers, and they were treated as refugees by Tripura and the Government of India and lodged in six different camps. Camp life was hard for the Brus despite Central assistance and resentment finally took the shape of the militant uprising, although the number of armed cadres and arms, as noted earlier, was small. But it was a blow to the Mizoram government, which had prided itself on establishing the most peaceful state in India after the end of the Mizo insurgency in 1986. Some church leaders were approached to act as intermediaries between the government and the BNLF. In its memorandum of 18 April 2001 to the Mizoram government, the BNLF again demanded the creation of an autonomous district council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and listed another nine demands. In the first meeting, Mizoram government representatives’ rejected the demand for a separate autonomous district council. This was replaced with the demand for a regional council. Another meeting in 2002, where the demands were further toned down, also failed. (The author is a freelance journalist based in Mizoram.)


Refugee Watch Online said...

With the surrender of 809 BLFM activists with 70 guns in the October 2006, and their repatritiation starting at Tuipuibari and Damparengpui, more than 10% of Bru families of Naisingpara are nor about to return. Doordarshan News from Agartala was giving a blow by blow account in the DD News channel causing much displeasure to the Mizoram Government. Let us see what happens next.

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