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Who are the Bru refugees?

Bru-Reang Tribes are locally called Reang and hence the name Bru-Reang. They are ethnic tribes living in India, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. They speak Katuic language. They believe in Animism religion and some others believe in Buddhism. The Bru-Reang is one of the 21 ethnic tribes of Tripura that are included in the Scheduled Tribe list. However, they may also be found in Mizoram and Assam. Some of them are Tibeto-Burmese origin.

Background of the Crisis

Bru (or Reang) are tribals inhabitat to some parts of Northeastern states. In Mizoram, they are largely restricted to Mamit and Kolasib district.  In 1997, following spell of ethnic violence between Mizos and Brus, thousands of people from Bru tribe were forced to leave their homes in Mizoram and settle down in Tripura. Mizo Students’ Association (MZA) was also demanding to remove Brus from the state’s electoral rolls, contending that Bru tribe was not indigenous to Mizoram.

This ethnic violence had led to retaliatory armed movement (Bru militancy) led by militant outfit Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) and political one by Bru National Union (BNU) demanding an Autonomous District Council (ADC), under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution, in Western Mizoram, where they were the more dominant community outnumbering the ethnic Mizo population.

The government of India has been making several efforts for permanent rehabilitation of Bru-Reang since 2010. The first phase of repatriation of Brus from Tripura to Mizoram was started in November 2010, when 1,622 Bru families with 8,573 members were resettled in Mizoram. But repatriation process was stalled in 2011, 2012 and 2015 amid protests by Mizo NGOs. In 2018, the government offered a package to these refugees for their peaceful return to the Mizoram. However, only 328 families (1369 individuals) accepted the offer and went back to the Mizoram. While Mizoram has as many as 40,000 Brus living in the state, in Tripura, their numbers stand at approximately 32,000, spread across six refugee camps in the state.

Quadripartite Agreement to resolve the long outstanding Bru-Reang Refugee Crisis?

On 16 Jan 2020, Union Home Minister signed a historic pact for permanent solution of Bru refugees’ issue. According to the agreement between representatives of the Central Government, Tripura, Mizoram and Bru tribes, they will now be settled in Tripura. Government of India also announced a package of Rs. 600 crore under this agreement.

Highlights of the Agreement

  • As per the agreement the Bru tribes would be given land to reside in Tripura. The Tripura state government will provide land for residential settlement houses
  • A fixed deposit of Rs. 4 lakh will be given to each family as an amount of government aid. They will be able to withdraw this amount after two years.
  • Each of the displaced families will be given 40x30 sq ft residential plots.
  • Besides this, each family will be given Rs. 5,000 cash per month for two years.
  • Each displaced family will also be given free ration for two years and aid of Rs. 1.5 lakh to build their houses.

This agreement will bring a permanent solution for the rehabilitation of thousands of Bru-Reang people in Tripura. The Government believes that this agreement will bring a bright future for them. A total number of 34,000 Bru refugees will be settled in Tripura under this agreement. Bru-Reang people will be able to enjoy the benefits of all social-welfare schemes of center and state governments.

Implication of the Tripura Re-settlement

  • Point of rehalitating the Brus in Tripura was raised by Pradyat Manikya, the scion of Tripr Royal family.
  • The decision was humanitarian from the point of view of the Brus who were afraid of returning to Mizoram but felt it cold lead to conflicts with the locals of Tripura.
  • As per opinion of some activists from Delhi, it is said that it could set a bad precedence, encouraging ethnocentric states to remove the minorities of all hues besides making the Brus of Mizoram opt for the rehabilitation package in the relative safety of Tripura.
  • The displaced Brus who returned to Mizoram have already demanding  a package equivalent to the one those who stayed back in Tripura relief camp would be getting.
  • Conflict between the Brus and the local Bengali non tribal people have started taking place in Tripura