Over 10,000 Bru refugees blocked a road in Tripura North district and launched an indefinite agitation on Thursday seeking resumption of ration supply by the Centre, which was stopped from October 1, following their reluctance to go back to Mizoram.
Over 37,000 Bru people had fled their homes in neighbouring Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic strife and over 4,000 families are still lodged in six relief camps in Tripura.
"Most of the refugees are running short of food since the ration was stopped. This is inhuman and against the government's commitment that ration will be stopped as soon as the repatriation process is over. But the ration supply was stopped from October 1 even as the repatriation process will continue till November 30. This means many of us will have to go back with an empty stomach. So we launched the protest from 5 am today (Thursday) and this will continue till the supply is restored. ," general secretary of Mizoram Bru Displaced Family Forum, Bruno Msha told DH over phone from Tripura.
They had earlier warned that the "hungry refugees" could loot government warehouses if the ration supply was not restored.
According to the central rehabilitation package, Bru adults are paid Rs 5 per day, Rs 2.50 for each minor, 600 grams of rice every day, three soaps, a pair of slippers a year and a mosquito net in every three years.
The Centre had asked Brus to return to the places identified by Mizoram government, as per the rehabilitation scheme but many of them refused to return citing security concerns. "The 57 places notified by Mizoram government in Mamit, Kolasib, and Lunglei districts are scattered. But we want to live in nearby areas as we have spent 22 years together in relief camps in Tripura. We want to live in nearby areas so that we can live like a community and help each other. We have also requested the government to allow us to make a survey of the places notified for settlement before repatriation but our requests have been rejected," Msha said.
Officials in Tripura, however, claimed the places were identified after consultation with all stakeholders including those leading the agitation now.
About 80 families have been repatriated so far since October 1 from the six camps.