Tripuras current state of political turmoil is marked by a divide between its three major communities the Mizos and the Bengalis on one hand and the Bru tribe on the other. The root of the dispute lies in a recent decision to permanently settle 35,000 Bru migrants from Mizoram in Tripura as part of the quadripartite agreement signed among the Centre, the Governments of Tripura and Mizoram and the Bru leaders of Tripura on January 16, 2020.
As per the new agreement, the Brus would be granted, among other things, equal political rights and social entitlements in Tripura. Each Bru household will receive a plot of land, two years of ration support, a onetime cash deposit of INR 4 lakh and a monthly cash support of INR 5,000 for two years. The agreement was signed with the hope that it would resolve a twodecadeold crisis involving the Bru tribal community residing as refugees in Tripura.
At least 35,000 Brus were displaced from Mizoram in the wake of intense ethnic clashes between the Brus and the majority Mizo tribe in 1997. Since then, the Brus have migrated to Tripura and have been living in various relief camps in the state. The Centre and state governments made nine attempts to send the Brus back and succeeded to repatriate 8,573 Brus to Mizoram in the first attempt in 2017. Subsequent attempts were stalled by Mizo nonprofits, such as the Young Mizo Association, in 2011, 2012 and 2015. The Brus themselves have also refused to go back, fearing persecution at the hands of the Mizos.
The agreement has had mixed reaction so far. While the political leaders involved in the agreement have hailed it as historic, the reaction of various organisations representing the Mizos and the Bengalis in Tripura, especially in the north of the state, have been lukewarm. The Mizo and Bengali populations inhabit Kanchanpur subdivision in North Tripura district, with the Mizos being concentrated in the villages of Jampui Hills. It is here that active protests against the resettlement of Brus have been staged since the start of 2020.
In February and March, Nagarik Suraksha Mancha (NMS), an organisation formed in the aftermath of an attack on the Bengalis in Kanchanpur in December 2019, and the Mizo convention, an organisation representing the Mizos in Tripura, joined hands to collectively oppose the resettlement plan in the Bengali and Mizo inhabited areas of the district. They have staged multiple protests, road blockades and hunger strikes to draw the governments attention. These organisations argue that the local people have struggled to adjust with the Brus owing to their antisocial behaviour and fear massive social disturbances may arise from their resettlement. They also consider the Brus a threat to their demography and scarce natural resources.
Mizoram Chief Minister P. Zoramthanga has requested his Tripura counterpart Biplab Kumar Deb to reconsider and cancel the proposal of resettling the Bru migrants in and around Jampui Hills. He highlighted the existing ethnic tension between the Brus and the Mizos, suggesting that their settlement in Mizodominant areas will defeat the purpose of the agreement.
Further, the opposing parties claim that no prior discussion was held with the local organisations, that no consultation took place and that the interests of the local inhabitants were not taken into consideration during the land verification process for the resettlement.
Various proMizo and proBengali groups have united under a collective called the Joint Movement Committee (JMC), comprising members of the Mizo Convention, NMS and other indigenous communities of Kanchanpur subdivisions.
On July 21, 2020, they submitted a memorandum to the state government with their proposals: first, the number of Bru families to be settled in the Kanchanpur and Panisagar subdivisions should not exceed 500; second, the Brus must be settled only in six areas identified by the JMC Sakhan Hills, BandarimaPushporampara, Subalbari, Chaigarhpur, KalarambariBandarima in Kanchanpur subdivision and Kukinala in Panisagar subdivision; and third, at least a few members of the JMC must monitor the resettlement process.
The JMC has clarified that they do not reject the resettlement of the Brus in Tripura in toto. Their only condition is that the resettlement plan ought to meet the criteria set forth by them if longterm peace is to be maintained in the district. Susanta Bikas Barua, JMC convenor, clarified his position by saying, We are not against the rehabilitation. All we are saying is distribute the burden of refugees across the eight districts of Tripura because our areas do not have the space or resources to accommodate more than 500 families."
After a brief lull in protests during the lockdown period, agitation resumed in the Panisagar area in North Tripura district in November 2020. On November 18, the issue took a violent turn. A resident of Kanchanpur was seriously injured in an attack by a Bru refugee, after which the JMC called for an indefinite shutdown in Kanchanpur. A blockade on the National Highway was also enforced.
On November 22, a contingent of police and paramilitary allegedly opened fire against the JMC in an altercation over the withdrawal of the blockade. Two persons died. Inquiry into the deaths and compensation to the families are still incomplete. In their defense, the police explained that the protest had taken a violent turn and the agitation had started to escalate despite repeated warnings to the crowd to disperse. On the same day, a fireman named Biswajit Debbarma was lynched by a mob allegedly comprising the protesters. The lynching provoked strong criticism from various quarters, such as the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura and The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance, who support the resettlement process. The government has ordered a magisteriallevel probe into the lynching.
On November 27, one Litan Nath was abducted and his decomposed body was recovered 50 days later. This again led to the JMC protesting, claiming that the Bru National Liberation Front is responsible for the murder. On December 1, the Brus refused to be settled across the state and demanded that at least 50 per cent of the people from their community be resettled in Kanchanpur. The Tripura government had ordered completion of the resettlement process within 260 days starting January 16, 2020, but the COVID19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown had significantly delayed the process. Land for resettlement is yet to be allotted, and the process if likely to take at least six months to complete, according to experts. As of now, the revenue department has sent a proposal to the Shillongbased North East Reserve Forest Office seeking approval to make the land unreserved. Meanwhile, oneoff incidences of violence between the local populace and the Brus continue.
Demand/Contention of the Affected Community
Demand for rehabilitation
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council, Revenue Department, District administration of North Tripura, Sub-division administration of Kanchanpur and Panisagar, Ministry of Home Affairs
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, Bharatiya Janata Party, Chief Minister of Mizoram, Indian National Congress Party, Young Mizo Association, National Liberation Front of Tripura, Bru National Liberation Front
Legislations Involved in the Conflict:
Constitutional Law, Other, Central/State Government Policy
Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:
Non-rehabilitation of displaced people
Out of Court
Name(s) of Court(s)
Nature of Protest
Blockades, Development of a network or collective action , Hunger strikes, Protests/marches
Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:
Lathi charge/tear gas/pellets, Killing
Reported Details of the Violation:
The police resorted to lathi charge and opened fire upon protesters who had blocked the national highway at Panisagar. One person died on the spot and several others were injured. On the same day, a fireman named Biswajit Debbarma was lynched by a mob allegedly comprising the protesters. Several instances of human rights violations happened throughout November, as outlined in the summary.
Date of Violation
November 21, 2020
Location of Violation
Has the Conflict Ended?
When did it end?
Why did the conflict end?