GP Insights # 228, 19 January 2020
In the news
On 17 January, the Ministry of Home Affairs moderated a historic agreement involving the Bru-Reang refugees that ended their two-decade-long crisis of statelessness. The Union Home Minister, Amit Shah presided over the Governments of Tripura and Mizoram and the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum, Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Coordination Committee and Mizoram Bru Indigenous Democratic Movement. The concerned state heads and the representatives have expressed their solidarity towards the pact and have ensured that the 30,000 Bru-Reang refugee community will benefit abundantly from it.
It will be a resettlement cum rehabilitation drive that has guaranteed housing, fixed deposit, monthly allowance and free ration facilities for the newly permanently settled people.
Issues at large
The Brus was an ethnically different tribal community from the Mizos in the state of Mizoram. With minor populations residing in other parts of Northeast India like Tripura and Assam. Due to intense ethnic clashes in 1997, half of the population of the community fled from Mizoram and sought refuge in the nearest state of Tripura. Presently, they are the second-largest Scheduled Tribe group in Tripura after the Tripuris. Several attempts of repatriation, since the start of the new century, has been made with not much outcome.
They are constantly ruled out in Mizoram with Mizo groups barring them from participating in elections. In 2018, the Centre and the Election Commission finally granted voting rights to the people in the Mizoram polls. The Bru refugee population in Tripura faced extreme hardships in the past twenty years, with several deaths accounted due to insufficient food supplies and savage living conditions.
In October 2019, the Centre initiated a ninth repatriation attempt of the refugees due to which they stopped food supplies and financial aids. This created an uproar, and most of them took to streets to protest against the death drive and demanded the restoration of the same. The Home Ministry finally started talks with the State governments of Tripura and Mizoram to legitimize the population and end their woes. This led to the three governments- one centre and two-state, to work together and propose a pact to settle the 30,000 refugees in the state of Tripura permanently.
First, the quadripartite agreement between the Central Government of India and the State governments of Tripura and Mizoram along with the Bru-Reang representatives stresses not only the resettlement of the internally displaced Bru-Reangs but also provide rehabilitation of the same.
Second, it is often seen that displaced communities are treated as non-existent entities with Borderline health and life threats, the same has been seen with the Brus. Their numbers declined drastically over the two decades of their statelessness due to extremely low birth rates and high death rates. The previous eight attempts of repatriation to Mizoram have only been sparsely successful which left over 30,000 people still stranded in six refugee camps in Tripura.
Third, this rehabilitation drive will ensure each family of 1200 sq ft of land and 1.5 lakh Indian rupees to construct a house, a fixed deposit of Rs. 4 lakhs, financial aid of Rs. 5000 per month and free ration facility for the upcoming two years. This means that they can uplift themselves from the extremely degraded living conditions of the refugee camps and construct a healthy life all over again. This also means that they can claim for governmental jobs and services. They will be more inclined to lead a legal lifestyle and are expected to refrain from illegal activities to sustain a livelihood.
Finally, an agreement like this, though late, is remarkable as it not only recognizes the plight of the refugees but also provides a seamless settlement of the people into a foreign land. Such pacts are necessary humanitarian steps towards ensuring the safe and sound right to life irrespective of borders and boundaries.