'Bru relief camps to be closed down after repatriation'

Last Updated 16 October 2019, 19:42 IST

The Centre on Wednesday made it clear that the relief camps of Bru refugees in Tripura would be closed down and the displaced persons must be repatriated to their homeland Mizoram during the ongoing exercise.

Altogether 4,447 Bru families, lodged in the relief camps at Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of North Tripura district, are scheduled to return to the neighbouring state from where they had fled since 1997 following ethnic clashes.

Till Tuesday, a total of 408 people belonging to 88 Bru families have left for Mizoram since the ninth round of repatriation which is termed as the "final" one, began on October 3.

"The decision of the Government of India is that there would be no relief camp in Tripura. The government has chalked out a development scheme for resettlement of the displaced Brus in 2018 and we would implement it. The new process for their resettlement in Mizoram has been started," MHA Special Secretary (Internal Security) AP Maheshwari said after a meeting here.

Besides Maheshwari, the meeting was attended by officials of Tripura and Mizoram and leaders of various Bru organisations living in the relief camps.

The Bru community, also called Reangs, is among the 21 scheduled tribes in the country. They are scattered across Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.

"The Bru leaders have expressed their concern about security and we assured them of their safety and security," Maheswari told reporters.

There could be some gaps in the process of the resettlement and those would be addressed, he said.

"No relief camps can continue in Tripura anymore, because it was part of an agreement between the leaders of Bru people and the government," the official of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) added.

Maheswari did not mention any date when the relief camps would be closed down. The repatriation is scheduled to continue till November 30.

Leaders of the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) that had signed an agreement with the Centre in July last year on the resettlement package after repatriation attended the meeting.

"We had signed the agreement for repatriation. But the people living in the camps now want an autonomous district council in Mizoram for their safety and also a pre-condition to return," MBDPF general secretary Bruno Msh said.

On October 4, posters opposing the repatriation and demand for a separate autonomous district council for the Bru community were found in the relief camps. However, no untoward incident was reported then.

A memorandum submitted by three Bru organisations to Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana had also expressed apprehension that the Bru community would lose their identity if they return to Mizoram in the present situation.

During the eighth round of repatriation, the Ministry of Home Affairs had warned that the relief camps would be closed down from October one 2018 and free ration and money doled to the displaced families would be discontinued. However, that phase did not bear much fruit. While the MHA did stop the free ration and cash dole from October one, 2018, the Centre restarted it apparently due to political reasons as Mizoram assembly election was nearing.

The Centre has approved Rs 350 crore for the ninth phase of repatriation and the amount covers transportation and rehabilitation package expenses, which include Rs 5,000 per month for each resettled Bru family in Mizoram and free ration for them for two years.

Eight attempts had been made to repatriate the Brus and only around 1,681 families have returned to Mizoram since 2010 and were resettled in Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts.

The vexed Bru problem started when the Bru people, spearheaded by an organisation, Bru National Union, demanded a separate autonomous district council by carving out areas of western Mizoram adjoining Bangladesh and Tripura in September, 1997.

The situation was aggravated by the murder of a forest guard in the Dampa Tiger Reserve in western Mizoram by Bru National Liberation Front insurgents on October 21, 1997.

The first attempt to repatriate the Brus from Tripura from November 16, 2009 not only fizzled out due to the murder of a Mizo youth at Bungthuam village on November 13, 2009, but also triggered another wave of exodus. PTI JOY NN NN

(Published 16 October 2019, 18:50 IST)

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