Sinlung /
04 December 2013

As ethnic tensions rise over kidnapping of Mizos, Bru leaders send envoys to gain release, Dec 4 : With Mizo groups' pointing out of Bru militants' involvement in the Nov 23 kidnapping of three men near the Indo-Bangladesh border getting shriller, Bru leaders have pooled money to finance a team of four interlocutors who entered Bangladesh Tuesday to speak to the kidnappers and get them released.

In a joint resolution with the Mamit unit of the Young Mizo Association, Bru leaders in Mizoram also called upon the 5000-odd Bru refugee families in Tripura's relief camps to return home by next year because "there is a perception of anti-social elements being active in and because of the camps," according to Bru Coordination Committee chairman Elvis Chorkhy.

Twenty Bru village councils are contributing about Rs 2000 each to finance the team's travels, and the resolution falls in line with demands of various Mizo groups who condemn the continued existence of the relief camps in spite of a repatriation package for the Brus to return to Mizoram.

Meanwhile, Mamit SP Rodingliana Chawngthu said police have located the kidnapped men who he said are safe, and that they expect to bring them home soon.

The kidnapping of three men, two Mizo drivers Sanglianthanga and Lalzamliana and a Kolkata-based telecommunications professional Deep Mandal, has been roundly condemned by various Mizo and Bru groups and rallies demanding their release taken out at various towns and villages over the past week.

But with fresh ethnic discontent simmering for more than a month now after the Election Commission's move to allow 11,000 Brus to vote in the just-concluded Mizoram Assembly elections from within Tripura, the involvement of Bru militants in NLFT kidnappings within Mizoram is taking an ethnic turn although no incidence of violence has occured thanks to community leaders' calls for non-violence.

Groups such as the powerful Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP, or Mizo Students' Association) have demanded the Brus in Tripura return before the Lok Sabha elections or be removed from Mizoram's electoral rolls, a demand supported by incumbent CM Lal Thanhawla.

The MZP is planning a "Long March for Peace" from Aizawl to the western town of Tuipuibari, near where the kidnappings took place. The MZP is one of a few Mizo groups blamed for the burning down of Bru villages in 1997 after Bru militants shot a Mizo game warden at the Dampa Tiger Reserve. That ethnic conflict led to a mass exodus of Brus from Mizoram to Tripura.

MZP President Lalhmachhuana said Tuesday the student's body "is aware some Bru leaders in the relief camps instigated this kidnapping to incite Mizos to violence to disrupt the repatriation process. It is in their interest to have as many families in the camps so they gain financially from the dole-outs they receive. But we are not going to fall for it, and this long march is going to be completely peaceful."

An ongoing repatriation process for displaced Brus has been able to bring only 1000-odd families home: many in the Mizoram government believe Bru leaders in the relief camps gain financially from informal taxes recovered from the thousands of families there who receive rations.

The Home Department blames this "incentive" as a motive behind the killing of Mizo youth Zarzokima ny Bru militants in 2009 just as the repatriation process was about to begin.


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