South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Tens of thousands newly displaced in Assam and Meghalaya; displaced Bru groups reach agreement on return to Mizoram

In early January, ethnic violence broke out between Rabha (or Rava) and Garo people in Assam state’s Goalpara district and the adjoining East Garo Hills district of Meghalaya state. By 11 January, ten people had been killed and more than 50,000 from both communities displaced. More than 34,000 people were in 37 camps in Assam and over 19,000 in 18 camps in Meghalaya. In Meghalaya, the state government promised compensation of Rs. 10,000 ($220) and three bundles of corrugated iron sheets to each displaced family.

Rabha people are the majority group in Assam but a minority in Meghalaya, while the opposite is true for Garo people. Tensions between the communities over the legislative and executivestatus of the Rabha-dominated Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council, which covers most of Goalpara district, escalated in late December when a Garo group called a strike in response to a Rabha road blockade in Goalpara. In early January, Garo people set fire to Rabha houses in East Garo Hills, and violence between members of the two groups ensued. The Government of India imposed a curfew in both districts, and sent 600 additional paramilitary personnel to the area.

Meanwhile in Tripura state, groups representing about 30,000 displaced Bru people reached anagreement about the process of their return to Mizoram state. Ethnic violence in Mizoram in 1997 and in 2009 had forced them to flee to Tripura, where they have been staying in camps since. The return process started in May 2010, but stalled in November as internally displaced Bru groups disagreed over return procedures.