Lokniti-CSDS postpoll study 2023 | Brus become visible in Tripura, but their fight for identity continues

People from the Buro tribes wait at the polling booth to cast their votes for the Tripura Assembly elections

People from the Baru tribe wait at the polling booth to cast their votes for the Tripura Assembly Elections Photo credit: ANI

A large majority of voters in Tripura were eagerly awaiting the election results to see which party would form the government. However, the concern for people belonging to the Baru tribal community – who exercised their right to vote for the first time in Tripura – was related to their identity. It was not that they were not interested in the decision, but talking to them in detail suggests that the desire for a separate identity was heavy on their minds.

A Lok Niti-CSDS study at the Buro Settlements site in Huduklau found that the majority of families have received most of the guarantees in the agreement with the government, but they are still fighting for what they have. It is their own identity. whose name is Brohapara (Bruce’s area).

The process of settling

A large number of people from this community are living in camps on the border of Mizoram and Tripura due to the reluctance of both the state governments to allow them to settle in their area. They were denied many things, the right to vote being one of them. But many Bruce who were earlier living in Mizoram were registered as voters there. They had been living in camps in North Tripura for years and were voting in makeshift polling booths run by the Mizoram government. But this process was not welcomed by Mizu. During the subsequent revision of the electoral rolls, the names of most of the Bruces in Mizoram were deleted from the voter lists.

The problem did not end there as the people of Tripura were also reluctant to allow Bruce to register as a voter in Tripura. They were also denied ration and other state-sponsored facilities. Clearly, he was neither welcomed by the people of Mizoram nor the people of Tripura. They were ultimately left at the mercy of the central government. Finally, on 17 January 2020, the Bru-Reang Agreement was signed between the Government of India, the Governments of Tripura and Mizoram and representatives of the Bru-Reang. One of the many promises was that the BRU tribe would get all the rights that are common. Residents of the state avail and can enjoy the benefits of social welfare schemes of both the central government and the state government.

A Lok Niti-CSDS study in the Baru resettlement village in Hudoklau in Dhlai district, a few days after the elections, indicates very high enrollment (90%) and even higher voting (over 96%) among the Baru tribe.

Most of the voters seemed very excited to vote in these elections and showed signs of their figures after voting. Enthusiasm among youth and women voters about keeping their home after resettlement in Tripura was also evident. He also said that apart from their voting rights, they are getting support from the government for other livelihood issues. Families are entitled to free ration for two years. Unless they are promised land and jobs by the government.

Most of the families have received land, along with Rs 1.5 lakh to build a house and Rs 4 lakh per family as a fixed deposit. However, what many of them were waiting for was the monthly payment of ₹5,000 per family as promised by the government and land for cultivation which would be their main source of livelihood. At present, most of them depend on manual labor for payment, although some have started their own small shops within the settlement.

Talking about his experience of participating in the electoral process, he said that he had to walk more than two kilometers (on average) to cast his vote, as the school (polling station) was quite far away.

It is noteworthy that although he mentioned traveling such a distance to vote, it was without complaint or sense of hardship. He was happy that he was voting for the first time after settling in the new village. Moreover, this problem will be solved soon as we have also seen that the construction of a government school in the village is going on in full swing and will it be ready within a month or so. The village already had a play school for children.

Apart from schools, a temple and a church were also being built with the help of the government. Many respondents said that there was financial support from other groups for the construction of the temple.

Within the Bro community in the township, 80% were Hindus and 20% were Christians. Hindu houses were clearly numbered and marked with a trident symbol on the front wall. This was clearly done to identify themselves as Hindus, although there was no segregation involved. The houses of Hindus and Christians were in mixed settlements and not divided.

The Election Commission and the government have apparently done a remarkable job in terms of settling them, providing them with basic facilities and livelihood. Such a high rate of voter registration is hardly ever found. It is true that the overall turnout was high in Tripura (88%) – it was higher than 91% in the previous assembly elections – but the turnout in the village community was much higher. One can only hope that the EC will pay similar attention to voter registration in other states, especially urban areas like big cities where the registration ratio is low.

Sanjay Kumar is Professor and Co-Director of Lokneti-CSDS, Vibha Attri and Jyoti Mishra are researchers at Lokneti-CSDS.

(The authors would like to thank ICAS: for providing financial support for this detailed case study of BRU tribes)


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