The repatriation of Bru refugees, which was scheduled to begin on Saturday, failed to take off as no one from the transit camps in Kanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura turned up to return to Mizoram. The process is expected to be completed by September 25 next.
A report published in the The Indian Express quoted the Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) (Kanchanpur) Kiran Kumar as saying that both the local administration and officials from the Mizoram Government waited for the refugees but in vain.
The report further stated that the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) president Apeto Sawibunga said none of the refugees residing in the six camps agreed to return as per the repatriation deal offered by the Centre.
On July 3 last, delegation of MBDPF had signed an agreement with the Central Government and State Governments of Mizoram and Tripura for repatriation of 32,000 Bru refugees residing in the Tripura camps. However, the agreement was not welcomed by the refugees and a new committee – Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Coordination Committee (MBDPCC) – was formed.
On the refugees’ refusal to return, MBDPCC president L Laldingliana said they would return only when the Centre accepts their demands, which includes an Area Development Council (ADC), cluster villages and one-time cash payment.
It may be recalled that more than 32,000 Reang refugees fled from Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts in Mizoram during the ethnic clashes in 1997. They have been residing in the Tripura camps for the past 21 years. Seven phases of repatriation have been held till date but several of them who repatriated returned later.
As per the repatriation agreement, refugees would be given Rs 1.5 lakh for housing assistance in three instalments, Rs 4 lakh for sustenance, free ration for two years and
Rs 5,000 per month. However, the cash assistance of Rs 4 lakh would be provided only after three years of uninterrupted stay in Mizoram.
The arrangements in the agreement failed to go down well with the refugees following which the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) officials offered to provide 90 per cent cash from the
Rs 4 lakh assistance as bank loan immediately after the refugees’ return. The remaining amount would be provided after two years.
Nearly two weeks ago, the MHA announced to close down all Bru refugee camps in Tripura after September 25 next if the refugees did not return to Mizoram. Joint Secretary Satyendra Garg said, “The repatriation agreement was proposed by the Mizoram Government in 2015. 32,876 refugees from over 5,000 families were identified by them and repatriation is being executed after discussion and agreement with Bru refugee leaders.”
Nearly 20,000 Bru refugees in Tripura are registered voters in Mizoram. Significantly, Mizoram will go to polls in November this year.