Note from Paritosh Chakma: Below is the report on Mizoram brought out by a human rights watchdog, Asian Centre for Human Rights as contained in its "India Human Rights Report 2008". The report on Mizoram, though not exhaustive, sheds some light on the conditions of the minorities in the state. It is worth reading.
Ruled by the Mizo National Front, the State government of Mizoram failed to take appropriate measures to address the serious human rights problems in the State. Not a single Bru internally displaced persons (IDPs) who took shelter in Tripura State since their expulsion from Mizoram in 1997 returned. A survey conducted by Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum found that 94.22% of the Bru IDPs had documentation to prove the bonafide residence in Mizoram
35,438 persons representing about 40% of the total Chakma population in Mizoram) were displaced due to the building of the fence along the 318 km-long international border with Bangladesh.
The State Government failed to curb vigilante violence. Members of Young Mizo Association (YMA) continued to take the law into their own hands. On 8 May 2007, one Mr Lalbiakliana was allegedly tortured to death by activists of Young Mizo Association after he was ‘arrested’ by a YMA anti-drug and alcohol squad for allegedly possessing ganja in Mizoram.
Though women generally enjoyed freedom in the society, there has been a steady rise of crime against women and children in Mizoram.
II. Human rights violations by the security forces
The security forces were responsible for torture and custodial death. The National Human Rights Commission did not receive any reports of custodial death by the security forces from Mizoram during the period 1 April 2006 – 31 March 2007.
On the night of 23 January 2007, 30-year-old Mr Hrangchhingpuia, resident of Hourang village in Lunglei district was allegedly tortured to death in the custody of excise police after he was arrested for selling local made liquor. However, the excise officials claimed that he hanged himself in the lock up.
On the night of 28 March 2007, two persons identified as P Vanlallawma and Lalchamliana were allegedly beaten up Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at Tlabung in Lunglei district. They were detained while returning home after looking for work.
III. The Bru crisis
a. Failure to repatriate the Brus
By the end of 2007, the government of Mizoram failed to repatriate the Brus from the relief camps in Tripura. The Bru indigenous peoples had fled to Tripura in 1997 following organized attacks against them by the Mizos.
The state government of Mizoram has refused to repatriate the Brus on the ground that not all of them were genuine residents of Mizoram and due to the opposition from the influential Mizo NGOs including Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (Mizo students union, MZP). Although the Brus themselves claim that there are 29,000 persons in the relief camps in Tripura, the government of Mizoram claims that only 543 Bru families (3,189 persons) fled the state in 1997.
On 26 April 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Government of Mizoram and the Bru National Liberation front (BNLF), an insurgent group. In the MoU, the state of Mizoram admitted its obligation/duty to repatriate and resettle the Reangs/Brus, but again questioned the “genuineness” and/or bonafide inhabitance of the Reangs/Brus. The MoU was signed without the consent of the Brus living in relief camps.
About 1,000 members of the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) have so far laid down their arms after the signing of the MoU with the government of Mizoram in April 2005 and the government has provided them with rehabilitation in Mizoram. Yet, in March 2007, the state government of Mizoram entrusted three Mizo non-governmental organizations - the Young Mizo Association, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (the apex body of the Mizo women) and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (Mizo students union) to verify the credentials of the former Bru rebels. All of the groups are well known for their anti minority stands. The NGOs reportedly identified 40 former Bru rebels as non-residents of Mizoram.
The contention of the state of Mizoram is false. In October-November 2007, the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) conducted an on-the-spot survey of 5,328 families residing in the six relief camps at Kanchanpur sub-division of Tripura. According to the survey of the MBDPF, 94.22% of the Reangs/Brus in the relief camps have at least one document each, issued by the State of Mizoram, its local authorities as well as constitutional bodies, namely, the Election Commission of India to prove that their bonafide/natural place of inhabitance is Mizoram.
Since April 2007, the state government of Mizoram held a series of talks with the MBDPF, the last round of discussion being held on 21 November 2007, but no result emerged. In order to prevent the Brus and the Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN), an NGO working for the rights of the tribal and indigenous peoples, from filing a writ petition before the Supreme Court of India for its intervention for early repatriation of the Brus to Mizoram, the Home Secretary, Government of Mizoram, who was the Chairman of the meeting warned the Bru leaders against going to the Supreme Court. The Home Secretary, Government of Mizoram warned the Bru representatives “not to file petition in the Supreme Court as it can create serious repercussion among the general public which may lead to further delay in the process of repatriation… ”
b. Miserable camp conditions
Presently, a total of 29,545 Brus are living in six relief camps in Tripura. Their camp-wise population is as follows: Kashirampur – 15,499 persons; Longtraikami - 5,137 persons; Hazachara - 2,593 persons; Kashau A & B - 3,305 persons; Khakchang - 1,243 persons and Hamsapara - 1,768 persons.
They conditions in the camps are poor. Since 2001, babies are included only in the census but not in the relief cards denying them access to food. Those who have become adult in the last six years continue to be given rations as minor. The ration quota is so inadequate that the Brus do not even report deaths as it will mean a further reduction of rations being provided.
Presently, a Bru adult gets cash of Rs 2.90 per day and a minor gets Rs 1.45 per day. 450 grams of rice is being provided to per adult Bru per day while 225 gram rice is being provided to per minor per day. This ration is highly inadequate. Yet, on 15 October 2007, the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, Government of Tripura reduced the monthly rice allocation being provided to the relief camps under the Public Distribution System (PDS), inter alia, on the ground that there is no separate allocation of rice from the Government of India for them.
Medical facilities are almost non-existent. Only when health conditions seriously deteriorate do doctors visit the camps. The conditions of children and pregnant women are the worst. As there are no primary health care centers, pregnant women are forced to deliver their babies at the relief camps. Maternal mortality is high. and as are also the common diseases.
Most tube wells are out of order. The Brus are forced to drink water from streams and ponds resulting in high levels of water-born diseases. Sanitation facilities are non-existent.
The Tripura government has denied educational facilities to children in the camps. Only primary education under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Education for All) programme has provided limited education. There is no scope for higher education. Effectively, over 5,000 minors have been denied the right to education and an entire generation of the Brus have become illiterate in the last ten years.
The MBDPF in its letters dated 26 June 2007 and 20 July 2007 addressed to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India and Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Kanchanpur, Tripura (N) rpointed out the lack of basic amenities. But to date the government has failed to act.
In addition, there is no security for the camp inmates. It has come to light that about 35 Bru children (aged between five and 15 years) went missing from the refugee camps during the last five years. The state government of Tripura has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
IV. The status of minorities
The enjoyment of rights by religious, linguistic or ethnic minority communities continued to be poor.
The Chakmas are the second largest community in Mizoram with 8.5% population against the Mizos who constituted 77%. The socio-economic conditions of the Chakmas are poor. Although Mizoram’s overall literacy is 88.49%, the rate of illiteracy of the Chakmas is very high. According to Census of India 2001, the Chakmas are the most illiterate community in Mizoram. They have a literacy rate of only 45.3 per cent, way behind their Mizo counterparts at 95.6 per cent. The gap is huge between males and females amongst the Chakmas: while 56.2% of the men are literate, the literacy rate of women is only 33.6%. In case of the Mizo tribes, male and female literacy stand at 96.8% and 94.4% respectively.
Minorities are discriminated in employment. The state’s Recruitment Rules of several departments require the candidates to be compulsorily educated in Mizo language up to Middle School level. Since most Chakmas do not study Mizo as a subject in school, they are not qualified to appointment, however talented they may be.
The Chakmas living along the Indo-Bangladesh border were also the victims of the border fencing in Mizoram. A total of 5,790 Chakma tribal families (35,438 persons from 49 villages or 40% of the total Chakma population in Mizoram) have been displaced due to erection the 318 km-long international border fence. Apart from their houses, the people have lost already wet rice cultivation lands, horticulture gardens, gardens for growing vegetables and other cash crops, tree plantations of high commercial values like teak etc, community/ government assets like schools, health sub-centres, community halls, market places, places of worship, play grounds, cemetery/ grave yards, water ponds, water supply, and other government/ council office buildings, etc.
Four companies viz. National Building Construction Corporation Ltd. (NBCC), Border Roads Organization (BRO), Engineering Projects India Limited (EPIL) and National Projects Construction Corporation Ltd (NPCC) have been given contracts for construction of the fencing.
The companies did not follow the guidelines for acquisition of the lands set by the Ministry of Home Affairs prior to construction of the fencing for mandatory consultation with BSF (Border Security Forces) & DM (District Magistrate). They started acquiring land without consultation with the tribal inhabitants or the local authorities, including the District Magistrate and the Border Security Force.
There was inordinate delay in releasing compensation to the affected families. Even nearly one year after completion of verification of the affected families, the NBCC failed to provide any compensation. From 13-18 January 2008, hundreds of Chakmas including women and children protested at Marpara village near India-Bangladesh border in Lunglei district against the denial of compensation and halted construction work of the NBCC. The protest was temporarily withdrawn only when the Project Manager of NBCC, Mizoram sector, signed an agreement with them on 18 January 2008 to release compensation by 31 January 2008. However, as the NBCC failed to keep its promise, the protests resumed.
V. Violations of the rights of the child
There has been a steady rise of crime against women and children in Mizoram. According to the records of the Mizoram police, 61 incidents of rape were registered between January and August 2007 as against 46 during the same period in 2006. 39 out of 61 rape victims were girls below 18 years of age - 17 victims were between 10 to 14 years of age and 16 were below 10 years while six of them were between 14 to 18 years.
The 2006 Annual Report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recorded 125 cases of violence against women including 75 cases of rape during 2006. NCRB also recorded 35 cases of violence against children including 35 cases of rape during the same period.
According to a study, about 84.64 per cent children were physically abused in the state. Of these, 35 per cent belonged to 15-18 age group. About 16.20 per cent were cases of severe forms of sexual abuse.
On 1 April 2007, a 17-year-old girl was allegedly molested by a Central Reserve Police Force constable when she was alone in her house at Bairabi village in Kolasib district.
(The report is available at http://www.achrweb.org/)