Even as the border tension between Assam and Mizoram remains delicate, fresh tensions have emerged on the Mizoram – Tripura border. Around 1500 locals from Tripura were forced to take shelter in neighbouring Assam after they were attacked by Bru refugees from Mizoram living in the state.
According to reports, the clashes took place between Bru people living in the Casco relief camp in Damcherra area and people from Chorei, Tripuri and Halam communities on July 26 over the possession of forest land in the area. The people from Bru community, also known as Reang, was displaced by the Mizos from Mizoram in 1997 following large scale violence against them, and have been living in relief camps in Tripura since then. After the efforts to repatriate them to Mizoram by the central govt had failed, last year it was decided that they will be permanently settled in Tripura.
However, locals allege that since that decision in January last year, the Bru people have been dominating the natural resources in the areas where their camps are located. The Brus have been objecting to the local people farming on the forestland, patta of which was given under Forest Rights Act by the government. Efforts by the administration to resolve the conflict had produced no results.
When on 26th July the locals went to take possession of the land, they were allegedly attacked by the Brus living in the Casco camp. The locals had also objected to the Bru people opening shops in the area. When they asked the Brus to close the shops, they refused and started a verbal confrontation, which soon escalated.
Following the heated exchange of words, the Brus and locals clashed using sticks and matchets, injuring several people. Several houses of the locals were destroyed in the attack. According to the police, 32 people were injured in the attack. The police had to fire in the air after arriving at the spot to end the violence. The injured have been admitted to the hospital.
Following the clash, around 1500 people from the minority Halam and Chorei communities crossed over the River Longai and took shelter in Manikbandh, Uricherra and Magura villages in Karimganj district in Assam. The administration in Assam provided them shelter in schools and other community buildings. The locals in the area arranged for their food and other essential items.
The villagers complain that the Brus living in all the six camps in the area have been attacking them frequently over various issues. They said that due to regular violence, some indigenous people have left their villages, which have been captured by the Brus. They also alleged that on several occasions, the refugees have expressed their intention to take over the villages.
“A year after Brus displaced from Western Mizoram in 1997 because of their non-compromising attitude and invading behaviour towards indigenous Mizo community, they have been harassing and committing atrocities on the local people of both tribals and non-tribals and in 23 years 70 per cent of the non-tribal families left their homes and hearths and shifted to other parts. Now, they want to evict the local tribals and capture the land,” a local trader Birmani Halam told the media.
“Casco is one of such spots where the relief camp of Brus is there and also, the state government selected the area to give cluster based rehabilitation of displaced Brus ignoring our united voice. When Brus got confirmation that the state government is sympathetic to them, they now resorted to attack on us to evict us from our ancestral land,” Halam added.
After the locals from Tripura took shelter in Assam, the district administration of Karimganj contacted their counterparts in North Tripura to inform them about the situation. North Tripura Superintendent of Police Bhanupada Chakraborty informed that some villagers have also taken shelter in markets in the affected villages. He said the situation has calmed down now but the administration has continued with section 144 of CrPC in the area to defuse the tension.
He also said that they are trying to bring back the people who have fled to Assam. “We are in the job to find them out and bring them back to their homes. However, we have initiated the investigation into the incidents and the law will take its own course inappropriate time. Now, our effort is to keep normalcy in the villages and maintain peace apart from resolving the issues whatever it is,” Chakraborty said.
Around 30,000 Bru refugees are living in Tripura, and after the triparty agreement in January last year, it was decided to settle them in Tripura as the Brus and the Mizos didn’t agree on terms of repartition. Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb had written to the Union home ministry offering to settle the Bru people in the state. Deb had said that 5,082 families continue to live in camps as they refuse to go back to Mizoram, and hence they should be allowed to settle in Tripura.
Accordingly, the process of rehabilitating the Brus in Tripura have started early this year, and many of them have been rehabilitated in different parts of the state. According to the decision taken in the triparty meeting, they will be given 40×30 square feet residential plots, fixed deposit of Rs 4 lakhs, case aid of Rs 5,000 per month for two years, free ration for two years and Rs 1.5 lakh aid to build their house. They will also get Tribal status, and will have voting rights in Tripura.