GUWAHATI: Four displaced Brus from Mizoram died at the refugee camps in neighbouring Tripura and Bru leaders alleged the deaths were caused by starvation.
The deaths occurred over the past five days and a four-month-old infant was among the dead. An estimated 35,000 displaced Brus are lodged in six refugee camps in Tripura.
The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) alleged that the refugees were dying as the Centre had stopped providing free ration to them.
Of the four who died, the bodies of two were consigned to flames. The bodies of the remaining two people, including one that was buried but exhumed on Monday, were sent for post-mortem. The authorities said the autopsy report would reveal the cause of death.
The refugees’ final repatriation process commenced on October 3 and it will conclude on November 30. However, as most refugees are not willing to return to Mizoram, the Centre has stopped providing the free ration to them.
“A lot of people are suffering in the camps as the supply of free ration has been stopped. There are a lot of patients and pregnant women. Whatever food we have, we are sharing but it is fast exhausting. That’s why the refugees have resorted to a road blockade,” MBDPF general secretary Bruno Msha told this newspaper.
The MBDPF had signed an agreement of repatriation with the Centre and Mizoram government last year. As per the agreement, each refugee family will get a plot of land in Mizoram, Rs.1.6 lakh as assistance for constructing a house, Rs.5000 per month for sustenance for two years and Rs.4 lakh which will be deposited in the bank and the amount will mature only after three years of uninterrupted stay in the state.
Since the process of repatriation began on October 3, only around 100 of the near 5,000 families have moved to Mizoram. Msha said the inmates at the refugee camps still remember those days when they were attacked and their houses burnt down and as such, they were afraid of going back to Mizoram.
“Another reason is that the 100 families, which returned after the process had begun, are going through a tough time. The Mizoram government is not issuing ration cards to them,” Msha said.
He alleged most of these families were not allotted land to construct houses and kept in hutments where they were sharing community kitchens and toilets. Each of these families has received Rs.25,000 as the first installment for construction of the house.
“We have scaled down from demands such as the creation of an autonomous district council, reservation of seats in the Assembly and jobs for displaced Brus and their repatriation in one district of Mizoram. We want an amicable solution,” Msha said.
“We have been staying here for 22 years and a lot of boys and girls have got married. We want to live together in Mizoram. However, based on the identification of the refugees, the Mizoram government wants to keep the father in one place and the son in some other place,” Msha said, adding, “The refugees are basically demanding that they should be kept in the three districts of Lunglei, Kolasib and Mamit”.
Over 40,000 Brus had fled to Tripura in 1998 in the wake of their riots with the Mizos. Over the past few years, a few thousand of them went back to Mizoram.