Mizoram | Deadline for Bru refugee repatriation ends, only 31 families return in latest effort
AIZAWL, September 26, 2018: Of the 5,407 Bru refugee families, only 31 have returned from their camps in Tripura to Mizoram during the stipulated one month of repatriation, which ended on Tuesday, Mizoram home department officials said.
Now, those who remained in the six relief camps face an uncertain future as the Centre had earlier warned that assistance doled out to them would be stopped from October 1.
"Only 31 Bru refugee families have reached Mizoram since August 25. We have unofficial information that 16 more are willing to return and they will reach Mizoram by today or tomorrow," the officials said.
Noticing the tardy response of the refugees to the process, the Mizoram government had termed the final repatriation process a "futile exercise" earlier this month.
"It is to be seen whether the Centre stops assistance for the inmates of the six Bru relief camps by October 1 as was warned earlier," a state home department official said.
The Bru refugees in the Tripura relief camps used to receive free ration and subsistence allowance of Rs 5 per day per person from the Centre.
In a November-2016 survey, 32,876 Brus belonging to 5,407 families were identified as bona fide residents of Mizoram, who could be repatriated. However, a study conducted later found that just 2,753 people belonging to 423 families expressed their willingness to return.
Meanwhile, Bru leaders in the relief camps alleged that a group of Brus objected to the repatriation process and asked the people not to return to Mizoram.
They even obstructed those willing to return to Mizoram and threatened Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) leaders through social media for which a police complaint was lodged, they said.
The Centre was earlier optimistic about Bru families returning to Mizoram during the repatriation process after an agreement was inked on July 3 between Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, chief ministers of Mizoram and Tripura and MBDPF chief A Sawibunga in Delhi.
The agreement stipulated that Rs 4 lakh for each repatriated Bru family be deposited to the bank account of the head of the family which would mature after three years and payment of Rs 1.5 lakh would be made for housing assistance.
Each repatriated Bru family would be given Rs 5,000 through Direct Benefit Transfer every month and free ration for two years.
Thousands of Brus had been lodged in the Tripura relief camps since late 1997 in the wake of communal tension triggered by the brutal killing of Lalzawmliana, a forest guard, in the Dampa Tiger Reserve on October 21, 1997 by Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) militants.
The first attempt to repatriate them in November 2009 not only failed but triggered another exodus after Bru militants gunned down a youth at Bungthuam village, three days before the commencement of the repatriation process.
Though some Bru families had returned to Mizoram during a number of repatriation processes and on their own will, many of them continued to refuse to leave Tripura despite many attempts by the government.