A day before their relief assistance from the central government was supposed to be stopped, the umbrella organisation of the 32,000 odd Bru refugees living in Tripura urged the Centre on Monday to continue with it. The Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and top officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs in this regard.
Inmates of the six relief camps at Kanchanpur sub-division in North Tripura district are scared and they sought to the continuation of relief assistance in the forms of free ration and cash dole, the letter signed by MBDPF president A Sawibunga, vice-president R Laldawngliana and general secretary Bruno Msha said. Panic gripped the refugees after Abhedananda Baidya, sub-divisional magistrate of Kanchanpur, declared last week that they will be deprived of ration supplies and cash from January 15, if the Union government does not extend its deadline for doling out benefits to them.
"The state has been providing cash and food to the relief camps as per instructions of the MHA, which had last year halted supplies for a brief period after failing to repatriate the Brus," Baidya had said. The Centre had stopped relief to the Brus from October one last year after they refused to return to Mizoram during the repatriation process commencing from August 25 to September 25. The supply was, however, resumed from October 22 with the condition that it would continue only till January 15.
Only 150 refugees of 42 families returned Mizoram during the exercise. In the letter, the MBDPF leaders said the repatriation process could not take off as many heads of the families could not obtain necessary documents like Aadhaar and ration cards and yet to open bank accounts to fulfil the provisions of the agreement signed on the issue. The MBDPF signed an agreement with the Centre and Mizoram and Tripura governments on July 3 to accept a repatriation package.
The MBDPF also expressed the desire that the newly-elected Mizo National Front (MNF) government in Mizoram should initiate talks on the repatriation issue. The MBDPF appealed to the centre to ensure that polling booths be set up inside the relief camps during the coming Lok Sabha polls. Thousands of Bru refugees from Mizoram fled to Tripura during ethnic violence in 1997. The clashes broke out after a forest official was killed by Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) militants.
The Centre, in association with the governments of Mizoram and Tripura, was repatriating the displaced Brus in phases. Though several Bru families have returned to Mizoram over the years, many refused to leave Tripura citing security reasons and inadequate package.
(With inputs from agencies.)