File photo: Bru refugees. Photograph:( PTI )
The Brus, a total of over 30,000 people, had to flee Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram around twenty-one years back due to a communal conflict with the Mizos.
The Bru tribe, also known as the Reangs, has been central to the politics of Mizoram and Tripura for over two decades now.
Mizoram assembly election in 2018 was historic, momentous in a way because the displaced Brus - those still living in refugee camps in Tripura for over 21 years - crossed the state border to Kanhmun village in Mamit district of Mizoram, to vote in their homeland for the first time since 1997 -- until now they were made to vote at their shelter camps in Tripura.
The Brus, a total of over 30,000 people, had to flee Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram around twenty-two years back due to a communal conflict with the Mizos.
The Mizos called the Brus not indigenous to the land, asking them to be stripped of their voting rights. The Young Mizo Association and Mizo Students’ Association wanted Brus to be removed from electoral rolls, calling them non-indigenous to Mizoram.
The Brus had to flee Mizoram after a Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) militant allegedly killed a Mizo forest guard and the communal conflict intensified. The Bru National Union (BNU) demanded an independent tribal district. They claimed that many houses inhabited by Bru families were torched down while hundreds were killed and raped. As tensions escalated, over 32,000 Brus fled to Tripura and took shelter as refugees in camps.
For over two decades, the politics over Bru repatriation heated and mellowed down with fates of thousands of Brus in a limbo.
The repatriation process started in the year 2010 and failed over fresh communal dissent with only close to 8,000 repatriated. Former Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had initiated a deal between the Centre, the Brus and the governments of Mizoram and Tripura. In July 2018, an agreement was signed, reinforcing the commitment to repatriate over 30,000 Brus to Mizoram, also laying down guidelines of the assistance to be given to the community.
As per the 2018 agreement, the Brus were promised Rs 1.5 lakh as housing assistance, Rs four lakh for sustenance, free ration for 2 years and Rs 5,000 per month.
However, the repatriation process was interrupted again with the Brus expressing dissatisfaction with the assistance package. Some demanded the release of cash assistance in advance when the Central government maintained that Rs four lakh will be provided only after three years of uninterrupted stay in Mizoram.
In November 2019, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb had agreed to settle the refugees in Tripura.
On Thursday, finally, a deal was brokered between the Mizo and Tripura chief ministers, the Bru representatives and the Ministry of Home Affairs.
As per the agreement, over 30,000 Bru refugees will now be settled in Tripura. The central government has sanctioned Rs 600 crore package for the same.
"Bru refugees will get a 40 by 30 feet plot along with a fixed deposit of Rs 4 lakhs, cash assistance of Rs 5,000 per month for 2 years and free ration," Amit Shah announced today.
The chief ministers of Tripura and Mizoram welcomed the move.
"This will permanently solve the burning issue that has been going on for 25 years," said Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga.
Tripura CM Biplab Kumar Deb described it as a "historic" step.