Posts Tagged 'tribals in india'



They are popularly known in the North East as Reangs. They are the non-Christian tribe, whose original name is Bru. They inhabited the southern parts of the Christian dominated state of Mizoram. Being non-Christian in a Christian state had its price.
Repeatedly subjected to persecution at the hands of the Mizo population as well as the political dispensation the Reangs – or the Bru people – were finally hounded out of the state during prolonged communal strife in 1997. It is 14 years since they had become refugees in their own land. Escaping from the marauders thousands of Reangs – men, women and children – fled into the neighbouring state of Tripura. For the last 14 years they have been living there in 7 different relief camps.

A total population of nearly 35,000 these Reang refugees today lead a pathetic life. Internally Displaced Persons – IDPs – are supposed to be the responsibility of the Union Government. However the Government at the Center is too busy placating the gun-weilding terror groups in the North East and it has no time for these hapless Reang refugees. The Tripura State Government tries to do its little but that is grossly insufficient for the thousands of Reangs. They live in most inhospitable mountainous region in the North Tripura distrct along the Mizoram border. There is no water or electricity facility. Thousands of thatched huts dot hill after the hill in the region. Obviously there are no schools or hospitals.

For living they depend mostly on the forests in the region. Able men and women venture into the forests and fetch firewood or teak and sell it in the nearby town to make some earning. But that too is not possible during mansoon months and in any case very few among the refugees can endure such physical labour under such had conditions. The ration that they get is shockingly low – Rs. 5 per day and 450 gms of rice per day for elders and half of it for the children. How on earth can anyone survive with Rs. 5 a day? A total of around 35,000 people survive on that meagre ration in these inhospitable jungles today. There are seven camps in total. Details of the refugee population in the camps are as follows: Camp Families Persons 1. Nayasinha Pada 3052 17668 2. Asha Pada 982 5000 3. Hazachera 770 3000 4. Kaisaka Pada 599 3800 5. Khakchang Pada 208 1300 6. Hansa Pada 312 1925 7. Naisau Pada 231 1500 The travails of these Reangs began the day they demanded a separate Autonomous District Council for them in Mizoram. Sometime in the middle of 1997 organisations like the Young Bru Association (YBA) and Bru Social Cultural Organisation (BSCO) started talking about this Council. No sooner had this demand reached Mizo organisations the retaliation began. Groups like Young Mizo Association (YMA) and Mizo Zyalai Powl (MZP), a local Christian Mizo group, started threatening the Bru people to withdraw the demand for autonomous council. Thereafter began the assault on the hapless minority Reangs. Their houses were attacked and ransacked, burnt down, looted, cattle were killed, elders were harassed, women folk abused and all this happened in front of the Government which chose to turn a blind eye. It is a known fact that several such autonomous councils exist in the states of the North East for various tribes. In that sense there was nothing unconstitutional about the demand of the Reangs. In fact there was a reason behind Reangs making this demand.
For a long time they had been facing acute hardships at the hands of the majority Mizos in the areas where they traditionally lived. This discrimination reached its crescendo when the lists containing the names of the Bru people as voters had been mysteriously burnt down in a fire accident. In the subsequent re-enumeration names of hundreds of Bru people were deliberately omitted. This forced the Bru leaders to go in for the demand of autonomous council in order to protect and preserve their identity. Yet they had to face the brunt of the Mizo people and run away into the neighbouring state of Tripura seeking refuge. For the last 14 years they have been living in the jungles of the Kanchanpur sub-division of Tripura North district. Tripura Government under Sri Manik Sarkar does extend a lot of support to these refugees. In June this year a devastating fire had destroyed the thatched huts of these refugees in the densely populated Nayasinh Pada refugee camp. 24 Reangs lost their lives while thousands became home and hearthless. The Tripura State Government immediately arranged for relief and rehabilitation.

District Collecter Ms. Soumya Gupta camped in the forest for ten full days to ensure that the refugees are properly rehabilitated. When I visited the camp in August this years the refugees were full of gratitude for the Government and especially the District Collecter. What struck me the most was that in the meagre rations that they receive the Reangs have saved enough money collectively to build two temple – one for Bhagwan Shiva and the other for Bhagwan Ram. They were building those temples through their own contributions and voluntary labour. The District Administration is arranging for schools, water, rough roads etc. However the central issue of their repatriation remains unanswered. The Central Government shows least interest in the plight of these refugees. Various international agencies too visit them from time to time but do little. For example representatives of the European Union visited the camps after the fire disaster. Many promises ensued. But nothing ever reached them. Their leaders understand that they shouldn’t expect anything from these international bodies as they are non-Christians and their tormentors are Mizos.

Whatever help they get is from the Tripura State administration and organisations like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram only. Even after the recent fire accident also the Kalyan Ashram has arranged for substantial relief material to help the victims. Apathy of the Central Government and reticence of the Mizoram Government make solution to the problem of the Reangs difficult. Last year the Mizoram Government succeeded in dividing the Reang leadership and buy over a section of the leaders. It came up with a oral repatriation plan according to which the people who return to Mizoram would be provided Rs. 80,000. Representatives of the Central Government force the refugees to accept the offer and return to Mizoram. However the Reang leadership is genuinely concerned about this offer. Firstly it is just an oral offer. Secondly except the meagre sum of Rs. 80,000 the Mizoram Government is not giving any other assurance to these people. For example they want to go back to the constituencies and districts where they can create enough numerical strength to ensure their own safety. But the Government refuses to allow them to change their native district or constituency. The Reangs know nothing exists in their native villages for them. They had to flee those villages precisely because they lacked any support. Now they are being forced to go back to the same places. The Government is not even assuring return of their old property. That means they have to go back and work as labour in the very fields which perhaps they owned some 20 years ago. The Reang leaders want a proper repartiation and resettlement plan. It should be properly written and documented.

Talks for drafting this plan should be held in a free and fair manner. So far the tripartite talks between the Mizoram Government, Central Government and the Reang leaders used to take place in Aizwal only. In an intimidating atmosphere in Aizwal the Reangs fear that they can’t get justice. The talks should take place in Agartala or Guwahati so that there can be free and frank discussion. The political rights of the Reangs need to be safeguarded in any such agreement failing which the entire community would loose its identity. Failure of the governments for years in finding a solution to their pathetic plight led to some Bru youngsters turning to the gun. They had a brush with terrorism through Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) which made matters worse. While those who opted for the gun had been won over by the Mizoram Government through various offers and an MoU, those who wanted a peaceful and democratic settlement faced the brunt of it by way of sidelining of the real problem that the refugees face. Reangs are another case of religious persecution after the Kashmiri Pandits. Both have been persecuted for being a religious minority in their respective states. But there is a major difference.

The world knows about the plight of the Pandits. They have some rights in their state in which the majority of them live. Although refugees for almost same period the Reangs have not been successful in selling their story to the outside world. Hence they suffer…. mostly silently in a remote corner of our country.


ORGANISER Dated July 5, 2009 & Dated July 19, 2009
For The Organiser: Column: TogadiaSpeak


Dr Pravin Togadia

Over 10,00,000 poor students getting FREE & STANDARD QUALTY Education, over 20,00,000 poor being given free Medical Help, over 1,00,000 poor being helped by free Legal Aid, over 5,00,000 poor youth getting professional vocational training like Computers, Mechanical, etc., over 3,00,000 poor women got smiles on their faces through their own work aided by Self Help Groups, over 1,50,000 poor Heart patients to be operated free at the most hi-tech ultra modern Heart Hospital (2500 patients already operated at Zero cost), 700 villages got clean drinking water free through modern efficient water pipes, over 5,00,000 AIDS patients to benefit from various programmes, over 25,000 poor couples are happy that they could get married at no cost, over 23,000 families of Diamond / Construction / Textiles workers got monthly food grains free after the workers lost jobs due to the current economic slow down & over 1,00,000 to get it, over 500 Ambulances are moving all India all the time to help the poor anytime, over 30,000 Health & Medical Centres with Medical Dispensaries / Mobile Dispensaries are operating efficiently free for the poor, over 5,000 orphan children are under warm shelter of love & care & also getting modern education….

OK, OK. Reading ANY list is quite monotonous. The above list of great work where millions of the poor & needy have been benefiting is NOT of the work done by any government in power. Without any governmental power this work is being done for years by HINDU ORGANISATIONS like RSS, VHP & by THE HINDU SADHU SANTS like SRI SRI GURUJI RAVISHANKARJI, SRI SATHYA SAI BABA JI OF PUTTHA PARTHY, THE LTE SWAMI LAXMANANANDJI, SRI DUDHABABAJI, SADHVI RITAMBARAJI & many of such people.

Some of these names are heard in media but only when it comes to some religious agitation like Ram Temple or Amarnath. The same media conveniently ignores the same names when it comes to giving coverage to many Hindu Organizations’ continued & committed developmental work in the above fields like Education, Health, Water supply, Vocational Training, Food Supply. It is easy to first ignore such work & then shout that Hindu Organizations & Hindu Sadhu Sants do not do any concrete development work for the society / Hindus & that they only do agitations for the ancient issues like temples etc. It is a high time that the people at large who do not know the gamut of the above work (& know only of Mutts & temple related work of the Hindu Organizations & Hindu Sadhu Sants) WAKE UP TO THE REALITY. Projecting Hindutva as anti Development has become a fashion off late. It is important to KNOW, REALIZE & UNDERSTAND the truth & then perceive anything & create perceptions in the minds of public.

The reality is that Hindu Organizations & most Sadhu-Sants are projected in & by a large section of media as those who live in some ancient era or who only give speeches (‘Bhadkaau Bhaashan’ as many media & many so called pseudo secular politicians love to describe) on issues that do not interest today’s youth or many even go ahead & say that people in these Hindu Organizations can’t do anything in their lives & therefore join such organizations or take Sanyaas & do some out-dated agitations as ‘Bhagva Gundas’. It is easy to do blah blah when there is no adequate information or even purposely to serve some political party / groups’ specific purpose by saying all such derogatory things. But it surely takes commitment & sincere efforts to put together the kind & level of socio-developmental work, which is mentioned above in the 1st para. And this is only the tip of an iceberg.

Very well qualified professionals who have been successful in their brilliant academics & careers as Doctors, Engineers from IITs, MBAs from IIMs / Universities abroad, CAs, Marketing professionals once launched great brands in MNCs & Indian FMCGs, learned & globally respected researchers in Psychology / Sociology / Economics / Science / Space Research etc, renowned Lawyers & Judges, Poets, Music Directors / Singers, veterans in many other Fine Arts… many people associated with & working in such Hindu Organizations have fabulous academic & career background. Be it RSS, VHP, ABVP or be it Ramakrishna Mission, Arya Samaj or be it Sadhu-Sants who may have long hair & beard but under those long haired or tonsured heads, many have very high IQ brains- some of them being General Surgeons, Cardio-Surgeons, Cancer Surgeons, Space Scientists, Engineers from IITs, Ex Judges & many other professionals. Most of them like Sri Sri Guruji Ravishankarji, Sadhvi Ritambharaji, many Mahants & Shankaracharyaji are not just well qualified but also have given their lives for the betterment & development of Hindus. It is a basic responsibility of all Hindus in India & globally as well as of media to once & for all stop seeing what has been projected artificially by a section of the society to defame Hindu Organizations & Sadhu Sants & start looking at the other side of such organizations & such people. This other side occupies over 90% part of Hindu Organizations & the highly (& mostly wrongly) publicized (by the vested interests media) image of Hindu organizations & Sadhu-Sants shadows the real socio-developmental work these organizations & these people have been doing for years together without being in the governmental power & facing physical & political oppression in many states.

From U.P. to Arunachal Pradesh, from Karnataka to Jharkhand, from Maharashtra to Tripura & in many other countries, Hindu Organizations & Sadhu-Sants have contributed to amazing socio-developmental work of the society. Just a glimpse of some of such projects & the number of the poor & the needy covered under those is mind-boggling.

• RSS has 16,208 Educational projects, 11,665 Health Projects, 8994 Self Reliance Projects & 16,412 Social Projects. These all total up to 98,768 as of now. These projects every year cover not less than 10,00,000 needy & poor children, old people, women, ill people etc. The work by RSS done whenever there is any natural calamity has not even been mentioned here but very silently & with dedication RSS reaches 1st in any calamity to help people – be it floods, earthquakes, fires or so on.
• VHP’s 1 Teacher Schools (Ekal Vidyalaya) number up to 26, 880 & they cover 7,72,065 students of which around 6 Lakhs students are from Tribal areas. This is the largest Hindu Missionary work in India & perhaps even the world by a single organization. What’s more, wherever there is a Ekal Vidyalaya, there is Village Development Unit under which a Medical Centre is run, making the Medical Centres also to 26,880.
• VHP also has other Educational Projects: 569 Primary schools covering 59,300 students, 156 Secondary schools covering 12,750 students, 53 Sr Secondary schools covering 2120 students. Then there are 15 Residential schools, many Night schools, 104 Hostels including 44 Orphanages. All these cover over 75,000 poor & needy children who are given standard quality Education & many other facilities of life. (From one of such Tribal schools, last year Board result was 100% & the highest score a student has got was 93%, recently I met a smart student of 2nd year MBBS. To my joy, he was from one of VHP’s Orphanages.)
• VHP has Health Projects: 34 Hospitals, 99 Dispensaries, 19 Mobile Dispensaries, 28 Ambulances, 192 First Aid Centres, 4 Medicine Collection Centres, 13 Goumutra Therapy Centres & many such related centers. TOTAL PATIENTS COVERED UNDER THESE ARE ANUALLY 2,80,000 min.
• Just recently in Pune a project Niramaya has covered 68 slums & 18 Construction Sites for Vaccination of children there in age group 1 day to 6 years. Total 12,025 children are vaccinated & 1 Lakh doses were given. They have a mobile van too so that the poor children do not need to come for it, Niramaya goes where they are.
• Not just Education or Health, some Sadhu-Sants are doing what ideally falls under the governments in power only. In Andhra Pradesh Ananthpur Dist, 700 villages have been supplied clean drinking water through modern pipes worth Rs 350 Crore. NOT by any government, but Sri Sathya Saibaba. And its free.
• Arya Samaj has 700 schools covering 15,00,000 students & 80 colleges covering 16,800 colleges.
• Swaminarayan Gurukul schools are 142 covering 12,000 students, 160 High Schools with 1,20,000 students & 25 colleges.
• Sadhvi Ritambharaji runs an Orphanage for little girls at Vrindavan, which has at this moment 350 little girls taking modern education. They would have been wandering on streets becoming victims of heinous crimes but now they have bright dreams of future in their little eyes.
• Sri Sri Guruji Ravishankarji’s developmental work covers at least 30,000 villages where Natural Agricultural projects, Organic Farming are being done where only in Karnataka 2000 youth are engaged full time & all India at least 20,000 youth look after this. He also has established a program for awareness about & help to AIDS patients all India. Recently there was a well attended caucus of Hindu Leaders organized for this & many of us have pledged our active support to it.
• Hunger is the number 1 killer in the world & in India. VHP, to fight this is doing a project ‘Ek Mutthi Anaj’ where the workers of various industries who lost jobs due to recent economic slowdown were provided with 15 kilos of food grains each for their families & the target is to cover at least 12,00,000 families with this ‘Anna Daan’ So far we have covered 15,000+ families. It also has a Food Bank where house wives take out 1 mutthi anaj everyday, it is collected by volunteers for distribution systematically. NO family has to come begging for the food is the most important part in it. Ek Mutthi Anaj Programme goes to their houses & respectfully gives food grains to them as Anna-Daan.
• Sri Sathya Saibaba also has a high-tech Heart hospital where they target to do 1,25,000 heart surgeries. 25,000 surgeries are already done with ZERO cost.
• NOT just socio-developmental projects but VHP also doing a lot in Art & Culture. In Pune, a music album made waves recently. Songs sung by Pundit Jitendra Abhisheki’s son Shounak, Pundit Bhimsen Joshi’s shishya Upendra Bhat & Shri Vasantrao Deshpande’s grandson Rahul Deshpande made this album a great hit & it was done by VHP. The artists gave programmes for VHP & then the album was made & available on the stands. Art is an important part of Hindu Dharma & it is our duty to preserve our fine arts.
• This effort was done even in children’s paintings. In tribal schools, a painting competition was organized which got tremendous response. 12 paintings were awarded & brought to people as greeting cards. All participants got nice certificates.
• At Dharmasthal near Mangalore Manjunath Devasthana is doing a unique project of innovative natural Agri-systems in 500 villages. They also have a legally accepted local justice system.
• Self Reliance Projects by us are helping youth & women in many villages with 94 Sewing centers, 63 Computer Training Centres, 306 Women’s Self Help Groups with Micro Credit & savings facility, 2 Mechanical Training Centres, 1 Honey-Bee Centre, 16 House Hold industry Centres, 112 Libraries… The list is long. & the beneficiaries are in millions.
• Sadhvi Maa Amrithanandamyiji has been running a multi-specialty hospital in Kochi which serves around 48,000 patients annually, has 38 hi-tech departments & 1,650 beds- The largest in Asia

All this is NOT given here to brag at all like many governments do- distribute some school bags & brag about it as if they have done global revolution in girl’s education or run few ambulances & brag about saving every life on the earth…NO. Effort of giving above details is done only to draw attention of all well-meaning Hindus to the reality that Hindu Organizations & Sadhu-Sants have been engaged in much socio-developmental work for Hindus. This is just a glimpse of it. I apologise to any other Hindu Organization & to ALL SADHU-SANTS & many Hindu Researchers who have been doing mountains of such socio-developmental work for years. But due to limited space & lack of detailed info, I could not mention them here.

From Education to Health Care, from Micro Credit to Self Reliance, from Agriculture to Clean Drinking Water supply, from Vocational Training to Free Food Supply & from Child Care to Women’s Welfare… Hindu Organizations & Sadhu Sants are busy doing what is truly termed as Socio-Developmental work with utmost dedication. The only part of Development, which they are not able to do is Infrastructure Development, which obviously governments in power are authorized to do as yet. As it is a responsibility of Hindu Organizations & Sadhu Sants (& all Hindus) to protect heritage, monuments, culture & people of Hindu Dharma; this responsibility of Hindu Socio-Developmental work is also being perfectly taken up by the Hindu Organizations & Sadhu Sants, what with their limited resources & in spite of political pressures.

The happiest part of this socio-developmental work is that it is a great joy to see tribal, poor children’s eyes shining bright when the study & go ahead in life., to see poor women happily telling friends as to how they got their daughters married with their own income, to see a terminally ill poor old man getting cured free & walking on his own feet….

The saddest part is that the one-sided media & a few vested interests groups purposely ignore / demean such a good work & focus on tarnishing image of Hindu organizations & Sadhu-Sants with some one-off incidents & paints them (& Hindutva) as anti-development & out dated. The saddest part is also limited financial & other resources with Hindu Organizations. But the HINDU DREAMS ARE BRIGHTER & THE HORIZIN IS MUCH LARGER…

( Readers wishing to visit any of the above projects, the writer can be contacted on the e-mail given here.)

The writer is a Cancer Surgeon & VHP’s Secretary General & can be contacted on