Reang (Bru) : A Tribal Support Initiative
The Reang is a bucolic tribe, and one of the 21 scheduled tribes of the state of Tripura. A small error by the Indian government during a census count gave the tribe its new name as Reang, whereas the traditional name of the tribe is Bru. They are the second largest tribe of Tripura after the Tripuri tribe. Although they are native to the state of Tripura, they can also be found in neighbouring states of Mizoram, Assam and Manipur.
In 1997, a bout of ethnic violence forced thousands of people from the Bru tribe to leave their homes in Mizoram & ever since, the displaced Brus took refuge in a town called Kanchanpur in northern Tripura, on the Mizoram-Tripura border. Now, they are spread across seven refugee camps on the Jamui hills, which separate Tripura from Mizoram and Bangladesh. The number of Bru refugees living in these camps is estimated to be around 35,000. The Bru Displaced People’s Forum, however, claims the number to be much higher.
Since February 2016, Sewa International has been consistently working towards providing succor to the Brus through its initiatives in Employment such as :
- Skill training in Bamboo crafts: So far, Conducted 3 rounds of Bamboo Handicraft trainings in Naisinghpara camp, training more than 50 people, making them better skilled and empowered earn a livelihood through their artwork.
- Handloom Weaving: This is perhaps the most significant program for the tribe as it is an endeavor to preserve their traditional, indigenous art of handloom weaving apart from being an attempt to create yet another source of livelihood. It is important to know that it is the traditional dressing style of the Brus which tell them apart & make them stand out from other tribes. Especially striking is the traditional wrap around called Rnai, which is an essential piece of Bru culture and is the most loved clothing by the women. It is made painstakingly using handlooms with specialized skills and to pass on this art to next generation & provide a chance of trade and employment, Sewa International has provided training to more than 40 Bru women from different families. At a small event organized at Naisinghpara Refugee Camp, Tripura, on 19th Jan 2017, this training initiative was launched in the presence of Shri Animesh Dev Varma (DC, Kanchanpur) and Shri Nishant Aggarwal (CEO, Sewa International).
- Computer Training: Program: We have trained more than 100 youths, so far, by providing them Computer Training at Naisinghpara camp and Damparengpui centers, Mizoram. The training programs are divided in two sub-categories in terms of program duration –a) 3 months basic computer training
- Tailoring Training: Program: Sewa International also provided tailoring training to 50 women who belonged to Reang tribe. It was a 4 month long program which started in November 2016 and ended in March 2017. Women came from 5 refugee camps namely, Hamsapara, Khakchangpara, Kainskaupara, Naisauphara & Ashapara.
- Education Centers for Bru children: It was a common observation in the camps in Tripura to see little children loitering in the streets or simply wasting away time instead of attending school. On inquiry, it was found that there are only 2 schools nearby and those also do not meet the standard of education one would hope for, at the very least, for a child. Parents in camps can’t afford to send them to faraway private schools for better education leading to very low literacy rate in the camps. After discussions with the local team, it was decided to open a few Remedial Education Centres in the camps which would be run with the help of volunteers for couple of hours per day. What started as an experiment with 1-2 centres, has now turned into 14 centres in 2 camps at Naisinghpara and Ashapara, reaching out to more than 280 students who come happily to learn something new every day at our centres. Seeing the response, Sewa International plans to start such centers at other camps as well. The main aims and objectives of the educational centre are as follows:
- To provide free of cost tuition class for the poor and needy
- To give them systematic and quality tuition for enhanced
- To ensure preservation of Reang culture by educating them about their
Shanti Rung is a 23 year old married woman, belonging to Reang tribe. She was a child when she witnessed the brutal massacre of her tribe and was forced to leave her home and state, and live in a refugee camp. Since then, she has been living in the Naisinghpara Refugee camp. Because of the evacuation, not only her childhood but also any chance for receiving an education were denied to her. She possessed no skills as she never had the opportunity to learn any. The earning of her husband wasn’t enough to provide the family with two square meals a day. So, when she heard about the upcoming Handloom Training Program by Sewa International, she saw a ray of hope in her life. She finally got the opportunity to learn a new skill, get employment and provide a better future to her family. Along with that she was also happy that she is helping in preserving the culture of her tribe. After receiving 1 month of training in Handloom development, today she is employed and earns upwards of Rs. 2000 per month. The money she earns may appear very little but for her and her family it’s a substantial amount because she feels now at least her children won’t be deprived of food and education, the way she was.
Galongti is a 19 year old girl, who was born in a refugee camp, a year after ethnic clashes tore away the Reangs from their homeland.She has witnessed the most inhumane conditions while in a refugee camp. During her early days, lack of food and water were a huge problem, even though they still continue to be a problem the conditions are better than they were before. The biggest challenge that Galongti faced was the lack of identity. Born in a refugee camp her identification documents were denied by the government of Tripura, and because of that her education suffered and she wasn’t able to enlist for any sort of skill development coaching & was, ultimately, forced to depend upon the meagre income of her parents. So when she learnt about the 4 Month Tailoring Training program by Sewa International, she enrolled herself in the program with a new hope for her future. For 4 months she religiously adhered to the training schedule & made the most out of the training & coaching provided. At the end of the program, she secured a job and now lives a dignified and fulfilling life.
Gunador Reang is a 46 year old man from the Bru tribe who lives in Naisingpara, North Tripura. He fled away from Mizoram, his native land, when ethnic violence broke out there. Displaced & distraught, he barely was able to make ends meet & provide for his family. In 2016, he heard about the Sewa International Bamboo crafts training program & got himself enrolled for the 10 day course.Within 2 months of the training, his income nearly doubled & as of today, he lives a peaceful, self-sufficient life, knowing well that he has the means to support his family & live a life of dignity.
In the near future, we, at Sewa International hope to continue with all our Skill Development programs as well as increase the frequency of the training programs so that more and more of the Bru tribals get an opportunity to benefit from them & avail better and equal opportunities. We are planning on providing the following training sessions annually in all the refugee camps:
- 6 Bamboo Trainings
- 3 Basic Computer Trainings
- 2 Diploma Computer Trainings
- 4 Sewing Trainings
- 2 Handloom Trainings
In the dire conditions that the Reang community is living now, it is more important now than ever, for us to open up new centres for both education and skill development so that basic human rights of acquiring an education and knowing enough skills to support their families are fulfilled. In our endeavour towards the fulfillment of this goal, we need as much support as possible. Please donate for this significant cause and help someone restore their life & see hopes of a better future.