Displaced from their decades old inhabited villages in Mizoram 26 years ago following ethnic troubles, around 14,000 of the total 37,136 Bru janjatiyas will cast their votes in the February 16 assembly polls to elect a new government in Tripura.
Tripura Chief Electoral Officer Gitte Kirankumar Dinkarrao told IANS that following the instructions of the Election Commission, 14,054 voters from 5,645 families have so far been added to the electoral rolls in Tripura.
An official of the Tripura revenue department said that out of the total 37,136 displaced Brus (also called as Reang in Mizoram), a Hindu janjati (aka ‘tribal) group, there are 21,703 eligible voters and the inclusion of the names of the remaining people to the electoral rolls in Tripura is being done after completing the formalities.
The Mizoram authorities, after they got feedback from their Tripura counterparts, deleted the names of over 14,000 Brus, officials said.
In Aizawl, a Mizoram Election Department official said that following the communication from the Tripura Election Department, the names of thousands of Reang voters, earlier enrolled in the electoral list of nine assembly constituencies in Mizoram, have been removed.
Various political parties approach the Bru people to cast their votes in favour of their candidates.
These 21,703 eligible voters are part of the 37,136 displaced Brus, who were forced to flee Mizoram following religio-ethnic attacks by Mizo Christian extremists, and sheltered in seven refugee camps in northern Tripura’s Kanchanpur and nearby Panisagar sub-divisions since 1997.
“After the Reang tribals’ settlement in the proposed locations in different districts the process for the inclusion of eligible names in the voters’ list started. The settlement process is going on.
“After their settlement, necessary documents are being issued against their names. We urged the Reang tribals to come to their settlement camps at the earliest,” a revenue department official told IANS.
Since the predominantly Hindu Bru janjati fled from Mizoram after religio-ethnic persecution there and sheltered in seven relief camps in northern Tripura, the Election Commission and the Mizoram election department in collaboration with the Tripura government during the assembly and Lok Sabha elections had set up special polling booths for them at a location along the Mizoram-Tripura border.
The official said that as per the agreement, signed in January 2020 between the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram governments and the Bru leaders, over 37,130 displaced Brus comprising 6,959 families are being rehabilitated in 12 locations in four of Tripura’s eight districts — North Tripura, Dhalai, Gomati and South Tripura.
“The target for the resettlement of these displaced Reang tribals by August 31 last year could not be achieved due to the numerous land-related issues, forest land clearance, fresh troubles, threats of agitation against the rehabilitation and numerous other issues,” an official, who refused to be named, told IANS.
Officials of Tripura’s Tribal Welfare Department said that due to the complicated enrolment process for the displaced Bru janjatiyas, the elections to the Village Committees in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council have been deferred.
Hearing a writ petition, the Tripura High Court’s Judge Arindam Lodh earlier directed the State Election Commission to complete the process of preparing the electoral rolls expeditiously and hold the Village Committee elections in accordance with the law taking into account the grievance of the petitioners.
Tripura witnessed its worst-ever ethnic violence over the rehabilitation of the displaced Reang janjatiyas in December 2020 leaving two people including a Fire Fighter dead and scores injured during a national highway blockade in northern Tripura.
The Joint Movement Committee (JMC), an apex body of various organisations including the Nagarik Suraksha Macha (NSM) and Mizo Convention, spearheaded the agitations against the “unplanned rehabilitation of Reang tribals jeopardising the security, livelihood and economic conditions of the indigenous people of Kanchanpur.”
Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) General Secretary Bruno Msha while talking to IANS said that there are two refugee camps still existing in Kanchanpur as many of the Brus are yet to be rehabilitated.
The MBDPF has urged the government to expedite the rehabilitation of the janjatiyas.
Msha in a letter to the North Tripura District Magistrate and Collector said that the one year, January 2022 to January 2023, cash dole supposed to be given to the refugees is pending leading to serious hardships for the janjatiyas.
“Such a long gap of non-distribution of cash dole has badly affected the inmates especially those who have not yet been given a plot of land and received no resettlement package. Due to non-issuance of cash dole the inmates have to die without medicine. Pregnant women and lactating mothers could not get sufficient diet, parents could not send their children to schools and could not provide them a square meal,” the letter said.
The janjatiya leader said that many students who are studying in local private schools are not being allowed to sit for the forthcoming mid-term and annual examinations as they are unable to pay their dues.
As per the agreement, signed on January 16, 2020, each Bru family is entitled to get one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit for two years, a piece of land in clusters measuring 30 x 40 feet for construction of a house, house building assistance of Rs 150,000, monthly cash assistance of Rs 5,000 per month for a period of two years, and free ration for two years from the date of resettlement.
The Central government had announced a Rs 600 crore package for the resettlement of the Bru janjatiyas.
A total of 6,367 janjatiyas returned to Mizoram in eight phases after the Centre, Mizoram and Tripura governments had made many attempts to repatriate them between 2009 and 2019 but the majority were reluctant to return to their home state unless their demands, including security and livelihood, were fulfilled.
(With IANS inputs)