Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Code Procedure were imposed in Kanchanpur, Tripura, on Wednesday after a man was allegedly assaulted during a strike opposing the resettlement of 5,000 displaced members of the Bru tribal community in the sub-division, PTI reported. The call for the strike was given by the Joint Movement Committee, a joint forum of local ethnic civil societies.

Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Police officer Bikramjit Suklabaidya said a water pump operator, identified as Subal Dey, was assaulted at Purba Laxmipur village by a group of locals when he went there for work purposes during the shutdown.

Dey was allegedly involved in an argument with some local people who assaulted him with a sharp weapon, according to The Indian Express. He was taken to the Dasda Primary Health Centre in the vicinity, from where he was shifted to Kanchanpur sub-divisional hospital. He was referred to Dharmanagar District Hospital later in the evening.

JMC spokesperson Sushanta Baruah blamed the Bru migrants, living in the rehabilitation camps in Kanchanpur, for the attack. He accused them of pelting stones on local households and of stealing livestock in a bid to “terrorise the villagers”.

Baruah claimed over 300 families were forced to flee Laxmipur village out of panic. “There is a palpable fear there”, he told the newspaper.

Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum General Secretary Bruno Msha denied the allegation, calling it “false, malicious and unfortunate”. “We haven’t attacked anyone,” he said. “We have faith on the government for doing whatever is necessary for our peaceful resettlement.”

In the midst of this, over 2,000 citizens of Kanchanpur held demonstrations against the assault. But the protests were largely peaceful, with no untoward incident reported, Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Police Officer Suklabaidya said. “We have got Section 144 imposed in the area,” he added. “Adequate security deployment is made, the situation is under control.

The resettlement plan

Over 32,000 Brus who fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of adjoining Mizoram in 1997 are being resettled in Tripura as part of a four-corner agreement between the state governments of Tripura, Mizoram, the Centre and Bru migrants. The government declared a Rs 600-crore package for resettling these migrants who have been living in six relief camps since October 1997.

The Joint Movement Committee and other civil groups in Tripura fear the resettlement plan would disrupt the local demography, social, ecological and environmental balance of the region. They demand that the Brus be settled across all the eight districts of Tripura instead concentrating them largely in North Tripura.

On November 16, a delegation of Bru leaders had met Chief Secretary Manoj Kumar to apprise him about the situation and their demands. Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Forum General Secretary Bruno Msha had they requested Kumar to consider four alternative resettlement spots out of the 12 decided by the government.

The leaders of the tribal community also demanded equal package for all displaced Brus, and requested the government to ensure the availability of basic amenities such as road connectivity, electricity, safe drinking water, school and healthcare before they are physically shifted from the camps.

Besides, the migrants reiterated their demand for the immediate issuance of Scheduled Tribe certificates, permanent residence certificates and enrolment in ration cards and electoral rolls to enable them to enjoy government scheme benefits.