Union Home Ministry’s move to speed up rehabilitation of Bru refugees develops a hope for the neglected refugees, who have been languishing at the camps in Tripura for 19 years, grossly neglected by the mainstream media
Jyoti Lal Chowdhury, Silchar
Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) leaders have expressed their willingness to return to their native land of Mizoram, but not without assured roadmap. “Our people in camps languishing for the last 19 years are disgusted and depressed. They long and pine to go back,” MBDPF president A Swaibunga and general secretary Bruno Msha while talking to Organiser over telephone from their headquarters at Kanchanpur in North Tripura said. In fact, prodded by the Centre, the government of Mizoram has once again given indication to take back the refugees. But, the odd 4,000 refugees who responded to earlier processes of repatriation did not have pleasant experiences as none of the promises made by the Mizoram State was addressed, alleged both the leaders.
Like once bitten twice shy, Bru
leaders sent 13 point charter of demands through the District Magistrate of North Tripura Dr Mahatme Sandeep Namdeo to Special Secretary to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, Mahesh Kumar Singla, on October 21 for consideration before the refugees are repatriated. Copies of which have also been posted to the State Governments of Mizoram and Tripura. The latest move followed against the backdrop of the meeting of the Joint Monitoring Group in New Delhi on October 10. It was attended by the higher officials of the Union Ministry of Home, Governments of Tripura and Mizoram as well as the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’ Forum. The meeting chaired by Mahesh Kumar Singla, special secretary (IS) UMH, impressed upon the Mizoram government to take back refugees and make passage for return to their native homes. He also set the deadline for repatriation by November, 2016, but Mizoram
officials wanted to extend the process by January 2017. It is to be recollected that the Brus had to desert their hearths and homes in Mizoram
following ethnic violence in 1997.
According to Swaibunga, Satyendra Garg, joint secretary, (NE), UMH, also stressed on Mizoram and MBDPF to sort out the differences and create the right ambience to begin the repatriation process as scheduled. Bru leaders on their part have to convince the inmates in camps to return. “Our people
confined in camps for long years do no more want to grope in darkness. In Tripura, it has been like living more or less in detentions. We now want to live with dignity and honour,” he pointed out. The Mizoram Government has to address the grievances and remove any misgiving in the minds of refugees. UMH official sounded tough when one of them said, “If the Brus failed to respond to the plan or process for going back homes, the Centre would have no option than to stop all financial
assistance and other facilities being extended to them”.
The discordant note, however, seems to be the different stand taken by the Mizoram Government on the insistent of the Bru leaders to have an on the spot verification of the villages selected for resettlement in the three districts of Kolasib, Mamit and Lunglei before the repatriation begins. Bruno Msha, general secretary of the Forum, asked what stood in the way of the Mizoram Government to allow us to visit for on the spot
verification of the ground reality since at stake is the life and liberty of 35,000 refugees and their survival depends upon the conditions for their living. It is this sense of fear which resulted in fizzling out of the earlier repatriation plans, he pointed out. “We do not want to meet the fate of the returnees who have been
sorely disappointed,” he added. It is incomprehensible why Young Mizo Association (YMA) should object to our spot verification.
Bruno also failed to understand why Mizoam Government and YMA should misinterpret or misread their visit for verification. “Our visit is for confidence building among the Brus who are
virtually shattered after years of
confinement in camps’, he clarified. It would be well appreciated if both the government of Mizoram and MBDPF together settle the plan amicably, Bruno further opined.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs spelt out its plan for resettlement in the meeting, which included housing
assistance of Rs 38,000 and cash of Rs 41,500 to each family, free ration for 2 years, transportation cost from Tripura to Mizoram for repatriation to be borne by Mizoram, blankets and utensils, housing scheme of Rs 1.3 lakh per family under Prime Minister Awas Yojana. Along with that in the final road map for resettlement of the Government of Mizoram, it has been held out that the grievances and demands of the MBDPF would be looked into for smooth repatriation. Notwithstanding all the good
intentions of the Centre, MBDPF has demanded its involvement in repatriation and rehabilitation,
dentification of selected villages by the leaders, inclusion of PMAY, withdrawal of alleged criminal cases against some Bru leaders, allotment of 5 hectares of lands each family, updating their population in camps and issuing of birth certificates to those born in camps during the last 19 years as well as the inclusion of all those families who were forced to flee from Mizoram in 2009. All this will help in avoiding future complications and make the repatriation and resettlement hassle-free, hoped the Bru leaders.
The Home Ministry agreed to
examine all the points raised by the Government of Mizoram and MBDPF and the final decision was
communicated to all the members of the Joint Monitoring Group present at the meeting within a week of the meeting of the Joint Monitoring Group. The
government of Tripura has been advised to update the population of the camps and issue birth certificates to all those born there during the period of their stay. Bru leaders look wary and apprehensive of their future after return as most of the demands raised by them before the JMB have been ignored.
Bru leaders at the same time wanted written assurance from Mizoram Government to allow them to live in accordance with their traditional faith and culture. Moreover, the documents issued by the State of Tripura in respect of their identity and stay in camps should be accepted by the authorities concerned of Mizoram for enrolment of their names in electoral rolls and for receiving all the financial aids and other facilities of the Centre. In the meantime, MBDPF has readied three teams for visit to the cluster of villages in Kolasib, Mamit and Lunglei for their resettlement. Most important, they want adequate security arrangement for safe stay.
In the tripartite meeting held in Kanchanpur of North Tripura on October 21 involving Mizoram and Tripura Government officials as well as MBDPF, it was conveyed by Lalbaikzama, Additional Secretary, Mizoram State, that most of the demands are the concern of the Centre and his Government is not involved. He refused to give nod to the visit of three teams for spot verification, calling it a ‘sensitive issue’. But, he did agree for identification of the refugees in six camps which MBDPF accepted. The Bru leaders want sincerely for resuming the process of repatriation. They also wish there is no more logjam and the 35,000 refugees return to the native land at the earliest. n