Tripura: Ration resumes for Brus but anger grows

Brus refugees staging a protest against near their relief camps in Tripura North district against "forceful repatriation" to Mizoram. (Photo by Tanmoy Chakraborty in Agartala)

Tripura government on Friday resumed the ration supply for over 32,000 Bru "refugees" after six deaths and a week-long agitation and road blockade near their relief camps in Tripura North district. 

But the fear and anger over BJP government's efforts for "forceful repatriation"  continues to dog over 4,400 Bru or Reang families, who had fled their homes in Mamit, Kolasib and Lungtlei districts in neighbouring Mizoram following ethnic strife in 1997.

"We are not against repatriation but most of us still are worried about safety and security aspect. We have information that the places identified for our resettlement in Mizoram are scattered. We have spent 22 years together in relief camps in Tripura and we are scared to live separately in Mizoram. So we requested the government to allow some of us to visit the locations before the families are repatriated. But our requests have been rejected by the government," Bruno Msha, secretary of Mizoram Bru Displaced Family Forum told DH recently.

He said the government identified 43 locations in Mamit, eight in Kolasib and six in Lungtlei districts for their resettlement. 

The forum is one of the signatories of the agreement signed with the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram government in June 2018 that finalised the rehabilitation package for repatriation of the internally displaced Brus.

According to the package, each family would get Rs 4 lakh, rehabilitation assistance of Rs 5,000 per family every month for two years, Rs 1.5 lakh housing assistance, daily ration of 600 gram rice for each adult and 300 gram for the minors for two years and Rs 3,500 to buy utensils and others. It also promised safety and provision for health and education by Mizoram government. 

The agreement decided November 30 as deadline for the repatriation.

The package, however, has not impressed them as only 5,000 Brus have gone back to Mizoram so far. The ninth phase of repatriation since August managed to send back only 700 of them.

Brus or Reangs are indigenous minority community in Tripura, Mizoram and Assam but many belonging to the majority Mizos in Mizoram suspect that many "illegal migrants" belonging to Bru community enterer Tripura from neighbouring Bangladesh and mixed up with those living in the relief camps.

This suspicion had triggered an agitation before Mizoram Assembly elections in November 2018. The influential Mizo NGOs had even forced the Election Commission to set up polling centres near Tripura border to allow the Brus cast their votes, instead of allowing them to vote in the polling stations, where they had voted before 1997. Such fear, according to the leaders, continue to dog the Brus living in six relief camps.

Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, while stressing the government's resolve to repatriate them within November 30 blamed that some leaders leading the agitation and the road blockade were instilling insecurity for their own vested interest.

"These leaders own home, cars and their children are studying in Shillong (Meghalaya) and other places. But they are asking the poor refugees not to go back. As a result, the children are getting deprived of better education in relief camps," Deb said on Wednesday.

Pradyut Manikya Debbarma, scion of the erstwhile Tripura Royal family, who provided ration to the agitating families questioned the BJP-led Tripura government on why 32,000 indigenous people could not be permanently settled in Tripura instead of forcing them to go back to Mizoràm.

"If the Government of India can accept lakhs of people from Bangladesh through Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, then why cant people of Tripura accommodate and accept our Reang or Bru people in Tripura from Mizoram?" Debbarma asked after visiting the camps.

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