THE Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in its fact-finding report released to the media on January 21 in Guwahati assailed the Mizoram Government for its failure to protect the Reangs or Brus. The Reangs, it is to be recalled, have been languishing in six relief camps of Kanchanpur in north Tripura since 1997 following their exodus from the native state of Mizoram due to ethnic violence. The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) which has been fighting for the repatriation of their tribes- men and parleying with the successive state governments at Aizwal and even hammering with the Union Home Ministry for the last nine years has failed to succeed in initiating the process of the return of the Brus. Two militant outfits floated by the disgruntled Reang youths—Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) and Mizoram Bru Liberation Front (MBLF)—in course of time laid down arms and ammunitions in 2005 and 2006 in order to facilitate the repatriation.
After series of talks between the Centre, Mizoram Government, MBDPF and the militant outfits, the Union Home Ministry came out with rehabilitation packages and a special development project for the refugees four years ago. An accord in this respect was entered into with BNLF by the Mizoram Government in particular. It was the responsibility of the Mizoram Government to take them back and implement the packages. But, for reasons best known to the government at Aizwal during the period, nothing was done in this regard.
The Bru-crisis continued to deepen and it became quite complex with the murder of a Mizo youth by the suspected Reang rebel. The Mizo youth was identified as Zarzokima and his killing led to widespread violence in Mizoram with the Mizos attacking the Brus assuming that some Reang rebels might have killed the youth. The repatriation was further pushed to uncertainty.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights was invited by the Mizoram Government to make an on the spot study of the violence-hit areas and the fact-finding team, visited not only the affected areas but also Tripura in December 2009. According to their findings, during the recent violence 383 houses were totally burnt and about 5000 Brus were rendered homeless. Of them, 2000 Brus crossed over to Tripura and joined 35000 refugees already displaced and sheltered in the relief camps since 1997.
In its report the ACHR pointed out that while the murder of Zarzokima must be condemned, the violence against the Brus cannot be justified on any ground. It indicted the state government for its failure to take timely action and intervene to stop the burning of Bru houses from November 14 to 16, 2009. It was only on November 17 that the Mamit District Magistrate talked of any security measure for the protection of Brus. The police, the report noted, did not act impartially which allowed the arsonists to take liberty and in some cases the rule of law had totally collapsed.
Though the Mizoram Government did provide relief to the violence-hit people, it has done nothing for their rehabilitation. Nor did the Government take steps to conduct assessment of damages suffered by the victims of communal disturbance. The ACHR also lambasted the Tripura Government for its failure to provide relief to the displaced Brus who took shelter in that state. It also observed the intriguing pretext of the Mizoram government to keep in abeyance the repatriation process and slammed it for delaying the return of the Brus despite the necessary funds being provided by the Centre.
In order to resolve the Bru crisis, ACHR has recommended the Union Home Ministry and the Mizoram Government to recognise the fundamental and constitutional right of the Brus to proper relief and rehabilitation. It insisted that both the Centre and the State Government should identify each and every Bru as to their places of origin before any repatriation begins and to sign an agreement with MBDPF in order to dispel fear and suspicion in respect of their relief and rehabilitation.
The ACHR at the same time made the observation that the demands of Brus for their social and economic security fall below what the Union Home Ministry has been providing to Kashmiri Pandits, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and other Sri Lankan displaced people. It called upon the Centre to uphold the principles of equality and social justice for the sake of fair deal without any discrimination towards the Brus.
In the meantime, a Mizoram Government delegation led by Additional Secretary (Home) T V Fambol held talks on January 22 at Aizwal with representatives of BNLF, BLFM and MBDPF in order to resolve the repatriation imbroglio as well as other related demands. But, the talks failed to come to any concrete decision and the Bru crisis continues, again pushing the fate of around 40,000 Reang refugees to uncertainty.