Archives  >  2020  >  January  >  22nd

The Bru Question

1. What’s the story?

The history of the Bru refugee in Tripura is a tragic one. “The Brus–spread across Tripura, Mizoram and parts of southern Assam–are the most populous tribe in Tripura. Also known as Reangs in the state, they are ethnically different from the Mizos, with their own distinct language and dialect and form one of the 21 scheduled tribes of Tripura.” In the later 1990s, more than half of Mizoram’s ethnic Bru population fled to Tripura, following violent clashes with the local Mizo population. Now, after many reptatriation attempts, the Government has decided to permanently settle the displaced community in Tripura. The Brus themselves have mixed feelings about this. 

Tell me more.

“The refugees will be allotted land and cash assistance to build homes and start over.

A four-way agreement was signed on January 16 by representatives of the community, the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram to formalise this arrangement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it “a special day”; Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who announced the agreement, declared it to be a “logical conclusion” to the impasse. Several senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders followed suit with congratulatory messages, terming the development “historic”.

But sections of the Bru community have misgivings about the agreement. The few families who trickled back to Mizoram under a repatriation deal signed in 2010 fear it could undermine their political aspirations and security. A few among those who remain in Tripura regret that they will never return to their homes in Mizoram.

Suhas Chakma, a human rights activist from Mizoram, said it was myopic to applaud the agreement. “What are we celebrating, really?” he asked. “This amounts to legitimising the idea of ethnocentric states and goes against the Constitutional tenet of pluralism.” ”

So, what now?

According to a number of scared people of Bru ethnicity, this decision may unleash violence against the remaining Brus in Mizoram by the state’s majoritarian elements. 

“Brus who returned to Mizoram under the 2010 repatriation deal also feel they lost out in material terms. When they were repatriated, most of the 1,900 odd families who came back got a one-time cash assistance of Rs 80,000 and free supplies for a year.

The new rehabilitation package is much more generous: Rs 1.5 lakh in housing assistance per family; one-time cash assistance of Rs 4 lakh to be handed over after three years; a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000; and free ration for two years.”

Things will, justifiably, take time to be sorted. 

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated. 

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

Delhi, that’s where. With Assembly Elections fast approaching, the Aam Admi Party’s insistence on fighting on local issues is posing to be a challenge for BJP. 

“As the Delhi Assembly election looms near, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the ruling Aam Admi Party is the frontrunner in the three-way contest and its chief challenger, BJP, is struggling. It is not the opinion polls alone that predict a clean sweep for Arvind Kejriwal’s party, the BJP’s strength — Narendra Modi — is turning out to be its weakness.

An over-reliance on brand Modi is weakening BJP and preventing it from formulating local strategies that are necessary in Assembly polls where grand national narratives hardly work. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections — and the clutch of Assembly elections preceding and following it — prove a new dynamic in India’s voting behavior. When it comes to Lok Sabha elections, the mode becomes presidential where the prime minister towers over the field with his mass connect, personality and cult-following.

The BJP appears on backfoot. It has allowed the AAP to exploit its vulnerabilities. On the question of BJP’s chief ministerial face to take on Kejriwal, BJP’s answer is interesting. Union minister Prakash Javadekar claimed “not having a face is BJP’s strategy”, and reiterated that “PM Modi is a credible leader and in Delhi, he will lead the poll effort.”

In a poll rally earlier this month, Amit Shah had repeated the same thing. This prompted Kejriwal to ask will the prime minister abandon his seat to become the Delhi CM? “I don’t see how it happens.”

Kejriwal is a fast learner. He quickly figured out that his ‘krantikari’ image is politically unsustainable, and towards the middle of his tenure he transformed himself into non-controversial, non-confrontationist figure.”

3. What more?

Eight Keralaites have mysteriously perished in a Nepal resort, prompting the department of Non-Resident Keralaites Affairs (NORKA) to step in. 

“As many as eight Keralaite tourists died in Nepal on Tuesday after they fell unconscious due to a possible gas leak in their resort room where they had checked into on their way back from their trip to Pokhara, a popular mountainous destination.

On their way back to Kerala, a group of 15 tourists had checked into Everest Panorama Resort in Daman in Makawanpur district on Monday night. According to the resort manager, although they had booked a total of four rooms, eight of them, including two couples and four children, stayed in one room. Once they checked into their room, they turned on a gas heater to keep themselves warm, the manager said, adding that all the windows and the door were bolted from inside. Police suspect they might have passed out due to lack of ventilation.

Meanwhile, as news spread in their hometown Thiruvananthapuram, friends and families members of the deceased tried to come to terms with the shock and disbelief the mishap has brought to them.”

4. Anything else?

Mohun Bagan, the oldest football club in the country, has merged with ATK. From next year, it is all set to move away from the I-League and join the Indian Super League, with its newly minted combined team of ATK-Mohun Bagan. Is this a legacy lost, or the dawn of a new era?

“Mohun Bagan is all set to move away from I-League next season with the 130-year-old club taking its heritage along to a tournament where the combined age of all the teams doesn’t even make up for half that number.

The oldest club in the country will feature in the Indian Super League rechristened as ATK-Mohun Bagan with former ISL champions ATK owning an 80 percent stake in the outfit. While it doesn’t change the ISL schedule, given there are no new teams getting added on to the roster, I-League will lose the legacy that the Kolkata giant brought to the table.

Fans in Kolkata, however, are going to be at a loss for a while though. Or at least, until East Bengal join their arch-rivals in the ISL.

Those who are well-acquainted with the fanaticism about the rivalry between the two clubs know it isn’t just the derby that keeps the fans on the edge of their seats. Mohun Bagan could afford to even finish 10th on the table, if East Bengal finishes a rank lower. And, vice-versa.”

5. Is that all?

The mysterious virus that has ailed large swathes of China is spreading faster than previously thought, and medical professionals are at a loss as to how to deal with it. “The number of confirmed cases tripled over the weekend, and it is now clear that the virus is spread by human-to-human contact.

“The number of people infected by a pneumonia-like virus in China tripled over the weekend as authorities confirmed on Monday that the coronavirus had spread to many more regions and cities, including the capital Beijing.

With just days to go before hundreds of millions of people travel to celebrate Chinese New Year, the tripling of cases of the infectious disease has raised fears of a much wider outbreak, after the World Health Organization confirmed that the virus was being spread through human-to-human transmission.

The Chinese government publicly acknowledged the crisis for the first time on Monday, with President Xi Jinping saying the outbreak needs to be “taken seriously,” adding that “party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.”

“An animal source seems the most likely primary source of this novel coronavirus outbreak, with some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts,” WHO said on Twitter.

For weeks the identity of the virus remained a mystery, but scientists have now identified it as a strain of coronavirus that has led to an outbreak of viral pneumonia. However many aspects of the virus remain unknown.

The spread of the virus has brought back memories of the Sars virus — also a coronavirus — that killed 774 people in dozens of countries in the early 2000s.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a fascinating look at how humans used to boil water before the invention of pots

“On a blustery day in October, Andrew Langley and 13 other graduate students headed to the woods to learn to boil water. They were allowed no obvious cooking vessels: no pots, no pans, no bowls, no cups, no containers at all. But they did bring deer hides, which Langley had carefully procured from deer farms. They were to boil water the Paleolithic way.

A couple of groups dug pits, filling them with coals and then lining them with either wet clay or a deer hide. Others poured water into birch bark or pig stomachs (procured from a Chinese supermarket). One group hung a deer hide from a tree and started heating small rocks in a fire—a technique inspired by the discovery of fire-cracked rocks in Paleolithic sites. These rocks had split and changed in distinct ways that suggested repeated heating and cooling. Archaeologists think that these stones were heated in fires and then dropped into water for cooking.

But you can’t use just any old rocks for boiling. “The stones are the most tricky part,” Langley says. Wet stones, such as those that have been sitting in a river bed, will explode when the water inside turns into steam. So will stones with air trapped inside them. “Things like granite and basalt are very good,” he says.”

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