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Bru refugees demand security, livelihood

Agartala, June 19: A large number of Bru refugees are averse to returning to Mizoram until their demands are met, official sources in the Tripura relief and rehabilitation department said today. More than 300 refugees have gone back since Tuesday.

Over 36,000 Bru refugees are sheltered in six camps in Kanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura. Kanchanpur is around 185km from here.

“Nearly 300 refugees returned to Mizoram on their own in the past three days,” Kanchanpur sub-divisional magistrate, Nantu Ranjan Das, said over phone. “Those identified as residents of Mizoram were taken to their respective villages in the western part of the state. They were given 20kg rice per family and doctors posted at the facilitation centres conducted thorough medical check-up of the returnees. He said the repatriation process would continue for some more days,” he added.

There are reports that some people tried to physically prevent those keen to return to Mizoram.

On the first day of repatriation on Tuesday, several hundred refugees organised a sit-in at the Kanchanpur camp for acceptance of their demands, which includes signing of an agreement between the refugees, the Union home ministry and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram.

“We want financial assistance of Rs 1,50,000 per family, free ration to every repatriated family for two years, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security from paramilitary forces,” refugee leader Ranjit Reang had told reporters at Kanchanpur.

The Mizoram government had earlier announced they would make necessary arrangements to take back the refugees.

North Tripura district magistrate, Sandeep R. Rathod, said over phone that they had arranged vehicles for the refugees to move to Mizoram. “But no one availed of the facility,” he said.

The Centre has sanctioned Rs 7.87 crore for rehabilitation of the repatriated people, Rathod added.

Over 36,000 Bru people have been sheltered in six camps since October 1997 after they fled their villages in Mizoram following clashes with Mizos over the killing of a forest official.

Rathod said refugee leaders had recently had told the Supreme Court special commissioner Harsh Mander that if the Mizoram government ensured their security and livelihood, they would return.

Mizoram home minister R. Lalzirliana met senior officials in Aizawl recently and decided to facilitate the return of the refugees. Only about 5,000 refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years.


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