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Why first phase of Bru refugee movement from Tripura to Mizoram failed

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A new committee, formed on 26 July, that claims to have the refugees’ support has made demands that must be met before the process begins.

New Delhi: The repatriation process of the Bru refugees from Tripura to Mizoram seems to have faced a setback after the first phase failed to take off Saturday, five weeks after an agreement was signed for it.

Not a single person turned up from the Dasdah village, the designated area in the North Tripura district for the Bru refugees, the members of a Mizoram tribe displaced in 1997.

The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Coordination Committee (MBDPCC), an independent committee formed on 26 July, has made additional and revised demands. It has claimed to have mobilised the refugees for the same.

Also read: The displaced Brus of Mizoram who will return home after 21 years 

A four-corner agreement — signed by the Government of India, state governments of Tripura and Mizoram, and the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) on 3 July — put forth terms of resettlement for the Bru refugees who are to be repatriated to Mizoram.

New demands

The MBDPCC is not a signatory to the agreement with the Centre. It has, however, exerted its influence after protesting against the MBDPF — the apex body of the Bru refugees — for agreeing with the terms of the state authorities.

Faced with pressure from the MBDPCC and the refugee population, MPDPF withdrew from the agreement on 16 July, 13 days after signing it.

Under the new demands, the committee has asked for the formation of an Area Development Council for the Brus, allotment of five hectares of land for each repatriated family and formation of cluster villages. In addition, it has also demanded cash assistance of Rs 4 lakh in hand, updation of electoral rolls and identification of over 1,000 families that the committee claims has been left out (at present, the Mizoram government recognises 5,407 families) — all these, before the repatriation process begins.

Speaking to ThePrint, MBDPCC president Laldingliana said the refugees have the need for three documents in particular — Aadhaar card, voter ID card and updated ration card — which can help them start a new life.

Expressing distress at talks with the Centre and the state governments, the Laldingliana asked, “If not from the government, who are we suppose to ask help from?”

“Such hurried repatriation is meaningless,” he added.

The MBDPCC wrote to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 8 August. The committee has not received any reply from the ministry so far.

Relaxed conditions

After MBDPF withdrew from the agreement, the Centre agreed to consider revising them, said a news report.

Under the original agreement, a one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh was to be allotted as fixed-deposit under the name of the head of the family only after an uninterrupted stay of three years.

However, under the revised condition, officials were reported to have agreed to provide the refugees eligibility to claim the money after a stay of just one or one and half years.

Further, a financial assistance Rs 1.5 lakh to build houses, originally to be made available in three installments, was agreed to be reduced to a single or two installments, said the report. It also said the new terms assured that at least 50 refugees would be made to settle in a single village.

The demand for cluster villages with 500 families in each was rejected by the Mizoram government.

Also read: ‘Blood on the bedsheet a must’: How this Indian tribe keeps horrific virginity test alive

A possible solution 

The MBDCC said repatriation can begin only when all its demands are met by the authorities.

Defining its ‘neutral’ role as that of a negotiator between the government and the refugees, MBDPF president A. Sawibunga said a coordinated effort between the people and the government will bring a viable solution to the problem.

“The government should modify the agreement and add certain demands of the people. Only that can conclude this problem,” added Sawibunga.

Government officials remained unavailable to comment.

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