According to a recent report published by IDMC1, around 30,000 Bru people were displaced from Mizoram and forced to flee to Tripura in 1990s. In 2009, there was a renewed violence which forced a smaller number of people to flee to Tripura. In 1990s various organisations from the Bru community ( Bru National Union and The Bru Democractic Convention Party) demanded for a Bru Autonomous District Council to be set up in Western Mizoram where Bru people make up the majority. During the course of the Ninth Annual Winter Course on Forced Migration, I met R. Laldawnglians, Vice President and Bruno M, General Secretary of Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum who were in Kolkata to share with the course participants the struggle of their community and living in camps in their own country.
Some excerpts from the interview are produced below.
History of Displacement
Bru people were displaced from Mizoram. Due to step- motherly treatment by the Mizoram state, some educated youth raised demand for autonomous district council under Indian Constitution. In October 1997, Bru villages were burned down by the Mizoram Goverment and Bru people were forced to flee to North Tripura and live a life of refugee in their own country.
Post –Displacement Armed Struggle
Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) was formed in 1998to take up armed resistance for survival of ethnic identity. They believed that state government and central Government will not listen if they do not take up arms. BNLF has already surrendered in 2006.
Living Life in Camps
Initially (1997) the displaced people from Bru community stayed in Government schools and Market places and after 2-3 months the Government of Tripura gave up land for setting up of Relief Camps. The Government of Tripura set up six camps in Kanchanpur district of North Tripura. The Government opened another camp following the conflict-induced displacement in 2009. Currently there are 7 relief camps and approximately 32,000 people are staying across these relief camps. Since April 2008, the camp residents receive on state assistance through distribution of cash and rice. An adult is entitled to receive Rs 5 per day per adult and 600gms of rice per day; and minor (1-7 years) is entitled to receive Rs2.50 per day and 300gms of rice per day.
Camp Management and Women
Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum looks after the problem of camp inmates. Since we have separate customary laws, Chodari ( a male representative) looks after cases of domestic violence, divorce and other domestic matters. There is a separate Camp Defence Committee which is responsible to prevent crime within camps. Though there are no women members in this committee we have a separate committee for women – Mizoram Bru Displaced Women’s Welfare Committee. This committee is managed by women and usually organised women related activities.
Education in Camps
Each camp has one voluntarily school per camp.
Right to Vote
Some persons have Voter’s Id of Mizoram
Right to Return
We want to go back to Mizoram.
IDMC report indicates that there have been various dialogues between the state and the Displaced people’s Forum and there have been attempts by Bru people to return to Mizoram. Around 1000 Bru Displaced People returned to Mizoram from 21 to 26 May 2010. In early January 2011, the Ministry of Home Affairs introduced a rehabilitation package through grants in aid to Mizoram Government for returnees. The return process was hit when the Mizo groups demanded that the Central Government should also have a rehabilitation package for 80 Mizo families who were forced to flee Sakhan range in Tripura in 1997 and 1998. The Ministry of Home Affairs consented to meet the demand and stated that the return process should continue till October. In September 2011 onwards, Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) together with representatives from political parties started an identification process if the returnees to Mamit district in Mizoram were from Mizoram. Incase they were not found from Mizoram they would be deported to Tripura. This move reinstated feelings of mistrust and stalled the return process of Brus to Mizoram.
1 November 2011.“This is our Land” Ethnic Violence and internal-displacement in North-east India. IDMC : Norwegian Refugee Council