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Refugees want better deal

A woman at a refugee camp in Kanchanpur in North Tripura district. Picture by Pranab Shil

Kanchanpur (North Tripura): Bru refugees, who have been in "exile" for two decades in Tripura, feel their trust on the Mizoram government for "satisfactory repatriation" has not been reciprocated.

"We voted for the Congress in the last Mizoram Assembly election but they did not fulfil our demands for repatriation," Naushela Reang, 32, an inmate at Hezacherra refugee camp here, said.

The repatriation package offered Rs 1.5 lakh housing assistance to refugees in three instalments, Rs 4 lakh assistance for sustenance, which would be handed over after three years, Rs 5,000 monthly cash assistance and free ration for two years.

Naushela feels the repatriation package is inadequate because it did not accommodate provision of cluster villages in Mizoram. "We have stayed here for a long time. We are ready to go but only if all our demands are met. Otherwise, we shall not budge," he said. Asked who he will vote for, he said, "I may vote for BJP and see what happens."

Zopola Reang, 60, another inmate at Hezacherra camp, said he would vote for the Mizo National Front. At Naisingpara camp, Achaksa Reang, 28, said at least 7,000 refugees were without voter or Aadhaar cards.

"Let the Election Commission officials visit our camps and give us voter cards. We do not care about the BJP or the Congress. We will vote for anybody who fulfils all our demands," he said.

Taribati Reang at Ashapara refugee camp said she wants cluster villages with schools, hospitals and other facilities in Mizoram. Asked who she would vote for in the Assembly polls, she said she would vote for any party which fulfils their demands.

Meltingrai Reang, 68, said he fled Tuipuibari in Mamit district 21 years ago. On the repatriation package offered by the Centre, he said, "We don't want money. We want sufficient land, security and above all, we want an autonomous district council."

Before the ethnic clashes in 1997, the Brus had demanded an autonomous district council, which eventually forced them out of Mizoram.

Asked why the council demand was not included in the repatriation talks, he said refugee leaders did not discuss the issue with them. "We shall not go unless they give us a council. We would rather die here," he said.

Over 32,000 Bru refugees are living in transit camps in Tripura and this number could be "decisive" for any party in Mizoram. The Young Mizo Association, Mizo Zirlai Pawl and other organisations have opposed the demands of the Bru council in Mizoram.

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