From Jyoti Lal Chowdhury in Silchar
PRAVEEN Bhai Togadia, the international working president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), met the MBDPF (Mizoram Bru Displaced Forum) leaders recently at Ananda Bazar in Tripura North during his visit there for the inauguration of the 19th annual festival and ex-student meet of Sadhak Ratanmani Sewa Sadan.
The MBDPF leaders who included R. Laldawngliana, vice president, Bruno Msha, general secretary, and member, A. Rindika, pointed out the extreme difficulties of living in camps due to inadequate relief materials distributed by Central Government through the Government of Tripura. Scarcity of fire wood, drinking water problem, absence of medical facility, educational structure, job opportunities and any other avenue of sustenance and livelihood. The leaders also expressed their willingness to repatriate to Mizoram and get amicable solution to their plight of living in the camps for more than 12 years.
They further stated that they had submitted a memorandum to Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, not long ago seeking tripartite meeting between MBDPF leaders, the Centre and the Govt. of Mizoram for smooth conduct of forthcoming repatriation process and to discuss certain problems being faced by the refugees.
The MBDPF leaders strongly felt until and unless the international or national level NGOs come forward to intervene in the crisis and hammer for the solution of the problems of the displaced Brus, the Central Govt. and the State Government of Mizoram would not pay any heed to their plight. The MBDPF leaders appealed to Praveen Togadia to extend his helping hand and that of his influential organisation with world wide reach to stand by the helpless displaced Brus who “are struggling for survival.”
Togadia promised the leaders of all possible help and cooperation for the solution of Bru problems and to take up their cause with the Union Home Minister. He said the issues raised in the memorandum were quite relevant and justified and called for a practical solution, considering the human aspect of it.
Togadia at the same time said that if the Union Home Ministry and the Government of Mizoram failed to arrive at an amicable solution and the stalemate over their repatriation continued, he would mobilise support of all other tribal communities and their organisations across the country and hold massive protest demonstrations in the national capital, Delhi, strategy about which would be decided only after the outcome of his talks with the Centre.
The MBDPF leaders were happy to receive a letter from Lalbiakzama, joint secretary, Home Department of Mizoram, for talks in the capital of the state Aizawl on last month in order to break the logjam and resume the fourth phase of repatriation. Others invited for talks included DGP, Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police, SP (CID) SB of Mamit district and Commandant, 4th Indian Reserve battalion. The Bru leaders were also skeptical about any positive outcome viewed against the backdrop of the half-hearted approach of the Mizoram Government. However, as Bruno Msha said an eight member team was formed to attend the meeting, but only after receiving certain clarifications asked for. Their apprehensions were right. They did not receive any answer to the clarifications sought. The meeting failed to take off.
With this the tale of their untold sufferings continue as the 35,000 Bru or Reang refugees who deserted their hearths and homes in Mizoram in the wake of the ethnic violence of 1997 were forced to live in the 6 relief camps in North Tripura. It was a very hard and struggling life for them with an uncertain future before them. After all the hurdles and series of talks involving MBDPF, the UHM and the Mizoram Government, the process of repatriation started. When the fourth phase of repatriation began, it was caught in logjam as only 7 of the 669 families could return home.
The reasons for their unwillingness to return to their native lands were not unfounded. The repatriated refugees were faced with extreme miserable conditions. They were subjected to undue harassment in the name of identification and in the process many of them found their names deleted from relief registers and even electoral rolls. They were denied two years’ free ration as promised as the jhum season was over. Many of them found heir lands forcibly occupied by others. Moreover, MBDPF was never taken into confidence or consulted in the matter of repatriation, alleged the leaders.
A. Sawibunga, president of the forum, said over telephone from Naisingpara camp after contacting those repatriated it was conveyed that on return they were facing extreme adversity in total negation of promises of taking proper care. The state government machinery became active to undertake population identification at Kunhmun and Zomuantlang facilitation centres on the basis of 1995 electoral rolls. This arbitrary act resulted in deletion of 85% of Bru voters, he said. Apprehension now lurks in the minds that their names might be struck off from ration cards and eventually deprived of relief materials. Once they board the waiting vehicles for being taken to Mizoram, the Tripura Government dismantles their houses. It was due to such fear and apprehension that on April 26, 2012 no Bru refugee turned up for second move of the fourth phase of repatriation, Sawibunga added.
The MBDPF leaders impressed upon Togadia to exert his influence with the UHM for allotment of land to every family taken back, free ration for two years, Rs 1.5 lakh compensation to each Bru family, formation of grouping or model villages for their safety and security, identification of displaced refugees in the camps itself, extension of the benefit of primitive group programme for their socio-economic amelioration, identification of rehabilitation centres before repatriation and permanent development project for the sustenance and better living of the Brus in distress. Pravin Bhai Togadia after being briefed about their charter of demands invited them for further discussion in Delhi in order to give a concrete shape to the strategy to focus the issue on national and international platform in the event of the failure of the Centre and the Mizoram Government to settle the Brus crisis.