[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for: 11 January 2006
Review: 107/06
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 terrorising

Naisingpara Relief Camp High School

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 socalled 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.

Bru Children not recorded for rations

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

State of the ring wells!

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.

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