Borok minority of north-east India victims of military and ‘development’
The Borok people of the north-east Indian state of Tripura have highlighted concerns over the activities of multinational corporations and large scale development projects, and military operations in the region, which they claim have led to forced displacement and widespread rights violations. Speaking at the UN Working Group on Minorities in March, representatives called for the return of Borok lands and the immediate cessation of government military offensives against Borok communities in the region.
Representatives raised the example of the Dumbur Nagar Hydro Electric project, which has caused massive displacement of the Borok people from their lands and villages. The Raima and Saima valleys were submerged following the construction of a dam over the rivers, raising the water level and flooding Borok villages. According to the Borok, they had little say in the development of the project, and those who wished to remain were forcibly removed by police who allegedly burnt villages, and killed or illegally detained members of the community.
Rehabilitation and resettlement schemes for evicted Borok were described as ‘token measures’, insufficient to the needs of the people, who were relocated to areas lacking water and any means of livelihood. Many Borok were left to become landless labourers, internally displaced in their homeland, while others found it necessary to migrate to neighbouring states and even to the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Further displacement of the Borok has been caused by construction of airports and an air force base, a wildlife sanctuary and gas projects and cattle farming in the region. These projects have failed to consider the rights and needs of the Borok communities.
Since 1997, the Tripura State government has declared Borok inhabited lands as ‘Disturbed Areas’ allowing them to enforce ‘special powers’ and national security legislation including military operations, gravely affecting the lives of the Borok people. The Borok have been branded as extremists and denied access to the forests, which are their traditional sources of livelihood, and security forces have been stationed in public buildings and schools. Reports by the Borok claim that hundreds of innocent people have been killed by the military and thousands are kept in detention.
The Borok have called for the return of their lands and restrictions upon development and the activities of multinational corporations and an end to migration into the region, which has left them marginalized. They called upon the Working Group on Minorities to pressure the government of India to end military offensives in the Borok territories and establish programmes of rehabilitation and reparation for the victims of violations.
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This news piece is based on an intervention to the UN Working Group on Minorities in March 2004 and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of MRG.