Mizoram failed to protect the Brus:
November repatriation was a recipe for chaos and conflict
New Delhi: On the eve of the talks being held between the State government of Mizoram and the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) tomorrow i.e. on 22 January 2010 in Aizawl, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today released its fact-finding report, "Brus of Mizoram: Unequal, Unwanted and Unwelcome" (available at www.achrweb.org). The ACHR was invited by the State government of Mizoram to visit the affected areas and the fact-finding team (FFT) visited Mizoram and Tripura from 8 December to 14 December 2009.
While welcoming the forthcoming talks, ACHR stated that Mizoram must learn the lessons from the failed repatriation of November 2009 which was a recipe for chaos and conflicts. The absence of a written agreement created fears and suspicion among both the Mizos and Brus and the murder of a Mizo youth, Zarzokima has been used to stall the repatriation process. According to the State government officials at least 383 houses were fully burnt. About 5,000 Brus were displaced. Of them about 2,000 Brus crossed over to neighbouring Tripura State and joined about 35,000 Bru IDPs who had earlier fled in 1997 following similar communal attacks.
The Fact Finding Team in its report stated that, while the murder of Zarzokima must be condemned, it does not justify violence against the Brus en masse. The State government of Mizoram failed to make timely interventions to stop the burning of the Bru houses from 14th to 16th November 2009. The Mizoram government ought to have been aware that there would be backlash against the Brus during the funeral of Zarzokima that took place on 15th November 2009 but it was only on 17th November 2009 that the District Magistrate of Mamit had assigned the responsibility to the police officers for security of the Brus to the concerned officers.
Wherever the police were present, they had failed to act impartially and often sought to justify their inability to uphold the rule of law on the ground that the mob was unruly. As the burning down of the houses in Damdial village in Mamit district showed the administration and the police were more interested to appease the miscreants by letting them to burn a few houses.
“They ordered me to get out of the house so that they can burn the house. I told them I will die inside the house but not get out. Then they took out a dagger to scare me. I told them you can kill me but I will not leave the house. We will die here (Mizoram) but not leave.” narrated the wife of Mr Surjamoni Reang, President of the Bru National Liberation Front while explaining the attack on the Damdial village.
None of the arsonists have been prosecuted despite arsons taking place in front of the police personnel in some cases and the rule of law in Mizoram had collapsed.
While the State government of Mizoram promptly provided relief but it has not provided adequate rehabilitation. The State government of Mizoram failed to conduct any assessment of the damages. According to the survey conducted by ACHR, the Brus claimed damage/buring down/taking away of 5,10,708 kgs of paddy, 11130 kgs of Sesame, 2820 kgs of rice, 5 shops with goods worth Rs.50,000, 17,986 kgs of Chilies, in addition to destruction of many properties and domestic animals and burning down of 1 TATA 407 vehicle.
The ACHR also blamed the State government of Tripura for failing to provide timely relief to the displaced Bru IDPs who sought shelter in Tripura.
ACHR stated that repatriation of the Brus without verification, unless the Mizoram government accepts all the displaced Brus, is counter-productive. The State government of Mizoram failed to show any seriousness to resolve the Bru crisis.
For resolution of the Bru crisis once and for all, ACHR recommended to the Mizoram government and the Union Home Ministry to recognise the right to proper relief and rehabilitation of each Bru family residing in the six relief camps of North Tripura; identify each and every Bru as to their places of origin before any repatriation takes place, and sign an agreement to dispel fears and suspicion and consider the demand for relief and rehabilitation of the Brus.
With regard to the demands of the Bru IDPs, ACHR stated all the demands relate to human development of the Brus and even fall below what the Government of India has been providing to the Kashmiri Pandits as well as the Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and the Sri Lankan Tamil displaced persons. The Central government must uphold the principles of equality and non-discrimination while providing financial allocations to the Bru IDPs.
With regard to the IDPs who took shelter since 13 November 2009 ACHR recommended to the State government of Mizoram to take immediate measures to ensure their return from Triprua including assessing the damages caused and provide adequate compensation to each family; free rations for one year to those Brus whose houses have been burnt; seeds etc to the displaced Brus to enable them to harvest in the coming Jhum season; build the schools that have been burnt and assistance to build the houses and recognise the Brus villages including Damdial and New Eden under the Village Council Acts.
ACHR recommended to the Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) to hold dialogues with the Bru community organizations and vice versa; revise the pre-conditions on the return of the Brus in conformity with the laws of the land; promote inclusiveness for development of all ethnic groups in Mizoram; promote teachings about the principles of equality and non-discrimination; and instruct the YMA and MZP branches to prevent any violence by the mobs that resort to violence unacceptable by any society governed by the rule of law and brings disrepute to the Mizo community.
ACHR further requested the Brus to participate and contribute to the Peace Committees set up by the State government and consider the demands in the light of the practical difficulties that may be faced by the State government of Mizoram.
Background: The Fact Finding Team chaired by Mr Miloon Kothari, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing also included Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of ACHR; Ms Dashalene Karbetang, Advocate and Human Rights Activist, Meghalaya; Mr Nava Thakuria, journalist and General Secretary of Guwahati Press Club, Assam; and Mr Bamang Tago, Chairman of Arunachal Citizens Rights.