GUWAHATI: The Centre stopped giving free ration and other benefits to the Bru (Reang) refugees of Mizoram lodged in six relief camps in neighbouring Tripura from Monday.
The action was taken as the refugees refused to return to Mizoram in defiance of a repatriation agreement which they had signed with the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram governments in July. According to the pact, over 32,000 Bru refugees were to be repatriated to Mizoram by September 25.
R Darlong, magistrate of Panisagar sub-division of North Tripura district, confirmed the suspension of the facilities to the refugees.
“We have stopped giving ration to the inmates of the relief camps as the government decided so. We made an announcement in this regard at all the three relief camps that are within my domain as per the direction of the government,” she told TNIE.
She also said that they were doing their best to convince the refugees to return to Mizoram.
From August 15 this year when the repatriation process started, only 45 of the 5,407 refugee families returned to Mizoram.
Meanwhile, the refugees urged the Centre to withdraw the suspension of ration to them.
“We don’t understand what makes the government to stop giving the free ration. This is a violation of human rights. The repatriation process is on. How can so many people be repatriated in such a short time? The Centre must extend the period of repatriation,” Bru leader Sawibunga told TNIE.
The government’s facilities to the refugees include cash assistance of Rs.5 a day per adult. It is Rs.2.5 for minors. Similarly, an adult refugee is given 600 grams of rice per day; it is 300 grams for minors. Also, a refugee, irrespective of age, gets seven grams of salt a day. They also get a pair of slipper once in three years. The males get a shirt and the females get a skirt annually.
Sawibunga said the refugees had certain demands which were within the parameters of the agreement that they had signed.
“There are some problems and confusions which need to be discussed. We are discussing with the government through the government-formed monitoring group. Repatriation of such a big number of refugees is a huge task. It takes time,” he said.
The refugees have been non-flexible on their seven-point demands which include the creation of an area development council for the Brus in Mizoram, allocation of five hectares of land to each refugee family, their settlement in cluster villages with each housing at least 500 families, Rs.4 lakh compensation to each family before repatriation, revision of electoral rolls, identification of 1,000 left out families and general amnesty to the refugees.
“Since the government has stopped the ration, the refugees will face a lot of difficulties in making both end meet,” Sawibunga added.