Agartala: On the outside, the scenic village of Phuldungsai on the Mizoram-Tripura border looks like a quaint little hamlet nestled on the Jampui hills. But this remote settlement has often been the site of dispute between the two states in Northeast, with both claiming the village as their own.
The latest trigger has been the reconstruction of a temple by a Bru organisation from Tripura.
In a letter dated 9 October, the Mizoram government has asked the Tripura administration to stop construction and “community work” by the tribal body, claiming these can result in law and order problems in the disputed area.
On Thursday, Chandni Chandran, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) in Tripura’s Kanchanpur, notified the imposition of Section 144 of the CrPC in Phuldungsai, which comes under her jurisdiction, to avoid any untoward incident.
The letter written by Mizoram Home Secretary Lalbiaksangi to the Tripura administration, a copy of which was accessed by ThePrint, said, “…report has been received by the government of Mizoram regarding attempts by SONGRONMA (a Bru organisation) of Tripura to construct a mandir at the disputed inter-state border village near Phuldungsai…
“It is also reported that community work is proposed to be organised on 19th and 20th October, 2020. Since activities in the disputed inter-state border can result in law and order problems, it is requested to kindly intervene and issue necessary instructions to the district administration for the immediate and indefinite stoppage of the proposed construction.”
The letter said the Survey of India has been requested to facilitate a joint spot verification involving both the Mizoram and Tripura governments to resolve the inter-state boundary issue.
When contacted by ThePrint, Tripura Home Secretary Barun Kumar Sahu declined to comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, a local body named Mizo Convention has called for a 48-hour bandh in the area on 19-20 October. A delegation of the Phuldungsai village council has also submitted a memorandum to the Kanchanpur administration to stop the reconstruction work.
Boundary dispute between Mizoram and Tripura
Mizoram shares a 66-km border with Tripura. While Phuldungsai falls under the Kanchanpur sub-division in North Tripura district, Mizoram authorities say the eastern side of this village is part of the state’s Mamit district.
There have been attempts in the past to demarcate the boundary between Tripura and Mizoram but with both states locked in a dispute over the resettlement of Bru refugees, there has been little success.
In Tripura, the Brus are the most populous tribe after Tripuris and are known as Reangs. Around 5,000 Bru families were forced to flee Mizoram and seek shelter in Tripura in 1997 following ethnic tension with the Mizos. Today, about 32,000 Brus from Mizoram reside in relief camps in northern Tripura.
According to local folklore, the temple in Phuldungsai dates back to 1943. It is believed that the Reang community in Tripura, led by a man named Ratanmoni Reang, had organised a rebellion against the state’s last ruler, Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. To save himself from the king’s henchmen, Ratanmoni had taken refuge in Phuldungsai where he built the temple.
In the years after Independence, the temple had turned into a popular tourist spot, till it was vandalised by a group of unknown assailants in 2015, said local residents in Kanchanpur.
Dispute over 130 villagers
This dispute over the temple’s reconstruction comes two months after the Tripura government identified 130 residents of Phuldungsai enrolled in the electoral roll of Zampui Phuldungsai, under Hacchek constituency of Mizoram.
A letter dated 17 August was written by SDM Chandran to Nagesh Kumar, the District Magistrate of North Tripura, emphasising on the need to demarcate the boundary between Mizoram and Tripura and incorporate the entire Phuldungsai village council in Tripura.
The letter stated that 130 voters in the electoral roll of Zampui Phuldungsai are residents of Tripura. “They are present in electoral rolls in Tripura, in ROR (resident and ordinarily resident) of Phuldungsai village council and avail ration facility from Phuldungsai ration shop under Kanchanpur sub-division.”
It further said, “Traditionally, Phuldungsai VC as a whole (despite eastern side falling in Mizoram) has been accepted as a part of Tripura. Hence, the inclusion of the VC and its residents in Mizoram electoral rolls seems to be problematic. There is an urgent need to demarcate the exact boundary between Mizoram and Tripura incorporating the entire Phuldungsai VC in Tripura.”
Sources in the Mamit district administration, however, said those 130 people are residents of Mizoram, who live on the eastern side of Phuldungsai which has been the “traditional territory” of Mizoram.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.