Ethnic tension has spiraled up in India’s North-Eastern state of Mizoram after a Mizo youth named Zarzokima, aged 18, was murdered by the by militants belonging to the Bru National Army. Since then suspected Mizo groups have burnt down nearly 400 houses belonging to Bru people. Thatch and bamboo is used as the primary roofing material for houses in these tribal areas.
Seven people have been arrested till now on the charges of arson over the past three days.
The Mizoram government on Monday issued a shoot-on-sight order at Bungthuam and neighbouring villages in the state’s western parts, which have been on the boil following last week’s murder of a Mizo youth allegedly by suspected Bru militants.
“The shoot-on-sight order has been issued to contain the ethnic strife at Bru-dominated villages in the Bungthuam area near the state’s border with Tripura,” Mizoram home minister R Lalzirliana said here.
Fearing backlash, as many as 300 Bru families in these areas have already crossed over to neighboring Tripura since the time the first arson was reported.
Chief Minister of Mizoram, Lal Thanhawla convened a Cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation and has asked the administration to start relief measures at the earliest.
“The ongoing arson is un-Christian and un-Mizo. We must keep our calm and maintain peace in this hour of crisis. If we condemn the murder (of Zarzokima), then a retaliation of this sort is not acceptable,” Lalzirliana (Mizoram Home Minister) said.
The history of clashes between Bru tribes and Mizos is not new. In fact after a major strife in 1997-98, the Brus had created the militant front called Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM). The bloody strife was expected to end when 802 militants of BLFM had surrendered in October 2006. The mass surrender followed an agreement reached between the Indian government and the Bru rebels in 2005 after the central government announced a financial package of Rs. 286.5 million for the repatriation of the tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram.
The state government has been in the process of making elaborate plans to repatriate over 35,000 Bru refugees since then who had escaped to Tripura after the strife first broke out in 1997. Meanwhile political leaders from the Reang community are busy fishing in the troubled waters.
The tripartite meeting held in Aizawl Nov 4 between representatives of the central and Mizoram governments and tribal refugees failed to resolve the 12-year deadlock to repatriate 35,000 Reang migrants from Tripura to Mizoram.
“Both the centre and the Mizoram government rejected our major demands. We will not return to our homes unless our vital demands are fulfilled,” said Elvis Chorkhy, who led the seven-member refugee delegation at the meeting.
“We will boycott the repatriation process as both the Mizoram government and the centre are not sincere about conceding our long pending demands.”
Nearly 30 militant groups operate in North East India and these struggles have left more than 50, 000 dead in six of the seven North East states since 1947 when India got her independence. The demand of such groups ranges from creation of autonomous regions to right of self-determination.
Central paramilitary Assam Rifles troops as well as sections of the Tripura and Mizoram armed police have been deployed in the area to ward-off any fresh hostility between Mizos and Reang tribals.
“The (Mizoram)government has sent heavy police reinforcements and started relief operations in the vulnerable areas,” said Lalrinmawia Ralte, parliamentary secretary of the home department.