GUWAHATI: The Centre has given a choice to Bru (Reang) refugees, lodged in relief camps in Tripura, to either go back to their villages in Mizoram or be ready to be denied free ration and other facilities. The choice has made the refugees think of going on the warpath. They are planning to launch a series of protests, particularly blockades on roads leading to Mizoram.
At a meeting held with senior Mizoram government officials and Bru leaders in Aizawl on Monday, joint secretary (Northeast) in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Satyendra Garg, appealed to the refugees to return to Mizoram as part of the repatriation process. He said refugees, who wished to be repatriated, would be identified and their names submitted to the Centre and the Mizoram government. At the same time, he said ration and other facilities given to the refugees would be withdrawn from October 1.
The Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Coordination Committee (MBDPCC) said it was not surprised by the Centre’s threat to withdraw ration to the refugees. “We have spent over 20 years in relief camps and seen enough of such threats. The government has always wanted us to fall in line by issuing such threats. So, this is not new to us. However, this time around, we are planning to enforce blockades on all roads leading to Mizoram,” MBDPCC president Laldingliana told TNIE.
Some 32,000 Bru refugees are be repatriated to Mizoram by September 30 this year as per an agreement which the Centre had signed with Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum besides Tripura and Mizoram governments in July. However, the refugees have raised some new demands which include the creation of an area development council for the Brus in Mizoram, payment of one-time Central assistance of 4 lakh before they are repatriated and their repatriation in a cluster of villages for security reasons. According to a clause of the agreement of repatriation, each Bru refugee family would be given one-time financial assistance of 4 lakh to be kept in fixed deposit within one month of repatriation.
Laldingliana said the ration, which they were getting, was meagre. “It is free ration in name’s sake. An adult is given a financial assistance of Rs 5 a day; it is 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. For 20 years, we have been going through difficult times. We sell firewood etc to eke out a living,” he said.