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Published: August 13th 2007
Bru refugee camp
After those wonderful days in the shampoo commercial called Meghalaya it was time to hit reality again... Our destination was northern Tripura, to visit some refugee camps which had been recommended to us by our all knowing acquaintance Tim...
Getting there was a bit of an adventure in itself... Not that it is hard or anything, but things get difficult when politics are involved... We got a jeep from Shillong to Silchar in Assam and as we neared the border with Assam we noticed something wasn't quite right...And sure enough, after crossing the border we hit a road block set up by angry villagers... It seems one or another political party had called for a strike and they were getting everybody to participate willing or not... As we had no intention on waiting in the middle of nowhere till the strike was over, quick thinking was required... And Noa was the one to do it! A nice lie about us having to catch a plane from Silchar airport (even though according to our fellow passengers in the jeep, the last flight had left already...) and when asked to produce the ticket, stating it was an e-ticket got us through the
Palm leave rooftops of Dasa Para
first of many roadblocks... Eventually at the last road block they wouldn't let us through, they saw through our petty lies and we were stuck, till the head honcho dropped by and decided foreign guests should not have to endure the strike... Phew, talk about saved by the bell...
After that it was smooth sailing so to speak... After another bus and jeep ride, we arrived in Kanchenpur where we were to meet with Elvis... Elvis lives!! And in this new life has decided to grace the world as the leader of the Bru displacement council, the body that holds talks with the national government and the different state governments on behalf of the Bru tribe to resolve a 10 year dispute with Mizoram... A noble cause I should say... Elvis is still his charming self and has a nice family and we were invited to stay with him in his home, where he explained to us the problems facing the Bru tribe and the history of their displacement out of Mizoram... He also took us to the camps itself, there are 6 in total, and he took us to the two biggest... One is the aptly named Naising
School childeren in Naising Para
Para, which means Village of Waiting; the other is called Dasa Para, which means Village of Hoping...
In short this is the problem: the Bru tribe were displaced by the majority Mizo about 10 years ago after they demanded Autonomous District Council status, which is provided for under the Indian constitution... All this means is, that their unique language and culture will get added protection and some extra funds will be provided... For some Mizo's this seemed like an outrages demand and they started burning villages and scaring the people... Eventually outnumbered they left their homes to the neighbouring state Tripura... Here they still live, the issue as of yet unresolved... They have little to no education (Elvis being the only one of the 35000 Bru refugees who has got a university degree...) and no land... They depend on the Indian government for food and other basic necessities...
Amazingly they are still a very cheerful people and incredibly friendly and they still all wear their traditional clothing... The camps are really picturesque, with a photo opportunity around every corner and the people love it when you take their photo's... I can safely say it was one of the
Old lady in Naising Para
highlight of the northeast so far...
As we didn't want to be to much of a burden to Elvis and his family we decided to leave after 2 days... Also it was quite hot in the plains and not far away was Jampui Hills the highest point in Tripura (and the only hills in the state)... So we got ourselves a jeep up to the Hills and spend our last few days in Tripura at the local tourist lodge overlooking to one side Tripura and to the other side Mizoram our next destination...
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