'Starvation deaths' in Tripura's Bru refugee camps

The refugees have been agitating near their Naisingpara relief camp in Tripura North district since Thursday seeking resumption of the ration supply to the camp inmates. (Photo: Tanmoy Chakraborty)

Two women and two children died in Bru refugee relief camps in Tripura since October 31 with leaders of the agitating refugees claiming that the four died due to shortage of food.

The refugees have been agitating near their Naisingpara relief camp in Tripura North district since Thursday seeking resumption of the ration supply to the camp inmates.

The ration was stopped by the government 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 an ethnic strife and over 4,400 families are still lodged in six relief camps in Tripura. 

READ: 'Hungry' Bru refugees block Tripura road seeking ration

General secretary of Mizoram Bru Displaced Family Forum, Bruno Msha told DH over phone that a 65-year-old woman, Bistirunga and Akosha, a one-year-old boy, died on Sunday. A three-month-old boy and a 60-year-old woman died similarly on October 31.

“There is acute shortage of food in each house since the ration supply was stopped. Doctors detected no disease in those who died and so we suspect that the four died due to starvation,” he said.

He said over 15,000 refugees blocked a road in Tripura North district on Sunday seeking resumption of ration supply.

Medical officer in the district, however, refused to accept the suspicion of starvation and said that they were waiting for postmortem reports to ascertain the cause of the deaths.

"This is inhuman and against 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 empty stomach,” Msha said.

He 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 2.5 for each minor, 600 gram of rice everyday, 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," Msha said. About 80 families have been repatriated so far since October 1 from the six camps.

BJP MP from Tripura, Pratima Bhoumik told reporters in Aagrtala that some leaders were inciting the refugees even as they are willing to go back to Mizoram.

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