Difficult to convince refugees to go back to Mizoram as demands remain unfulfilled, says Bru leader
There is a cloud of uncertainty over the forthcoming repatriation of Bru refugees from camps in Tripura to Mizoram over continued reluctance from community leaders who claim their demands remained unfulfilled, a Mizoram state government official said on Saturday.
“We have had meetings in Tripura. We are ready to take the Brus back from October 3 as per the agreement. But from our sources we have heard there is opposition to repatriation, especially from the young leadership,” said Lalbiakzama, Home Secretary, Mizoram on Saturday. On Thursday, he attended a meeting along with Tripura government officials and representatives of the Bru refugees living in relief camps.
Over 4400 families living in six relief camps in Tripura are scheduled to be repatriated from October 3 as per the decision of the joint monitoring group which includes all stakeholders including the Centre.
Bruno Msha, the secretary of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), which signed the July 2018 agreement with state governments of Mizoram and Tripura and the Centre, said it is difficult to convince people to go back. He said none of the demands put forth by the Brus including inspection of land allotted in Mizoram, one-time payment of cash benefits and re-identification of families excluded from the list of people to be repatriated have been accepted by Mizoram.
“We have minimum demands. If these are not accepted how can we convince our people? It will be difficult,” he said. Mizoram state government, meanwhile, continues to claim that it will go by the 2018 agreement which was also signed by the MBDPF.
As per the agreement, the Centre promised to provide Rs 4,00,000 to each repatriated family by way of a fixed deposit, Rs 1,50,000 for housing assistance and Rs 5,000 per month and free ration for two years. The Centre also claimed then it will close the refugee camps by September 25, 2018, the then deadline for repatriation.
The Brus in Tripura, however, after the agreement demanded a financial package of Rs 1 million, five hectares of land among and security by the central forces as an additional precondition for going back, something which was not accepted by the Mizoram government.
“We will have vehicles ready from October 3,” said Lalbiakzama.
Around 32,000 Brus had been displaced after the ethnic clashes in 1997 in Mizoram following the murder of a forest guard in Mamit district. There have been several attempts to repatriate them and reportedly, only over 1600 families have gone back since 2010.