Centre and Mizoram appeal Bru people to return before assistance revoked

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AIZAWL, Sept 11 (Newmai): The Central government and the Mizoram government have appealed to the displaced Bru families lodging at six relief camps in Tripura to return to Mizoram before the revocation of assistance. This development came as the Central government has planned to stop doling out free ration and assistance to the displaced Bru people from October.

A meeting of officials of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Mizoram Home department and police was held here yesterday under the leadership of MHA’s Joint Secretary (North East) Satyendra Garg  and discussed the issue, Additional Secretary in the state Home department, Lalbiakzama informed. Leaders of Young Mizo Association (YMA), Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Coordination Committee (MBDPCC) and Equal Package Demand Committee (EPDC), representing the Bru families already repatriated to Mizoram also attended the meeting, the officer said. Lalbiakzama also said that the meeting appealed to the Bru families to return to Mizoram.

Officials of MHA informed the meeting that the Centre would cease to give free ration and subsistence allowance of Rs 5 per head per day to the Bru refugees from October 1 and would close down all the relief camps after the time for repatriation is lapsed, Lalbiakzama said.

However, the meeting could not decide on when to begin the repatriation as the Bru families were asked to return to Mizoram whenever they are ready, he added.

According to Lalbiakzama, only three out of 5,407 Bru families have so far returned to Mizoram during repatriation exercise between August 25 and 28. Two of the repatriated families were resettled in Kolasib district, while 1 family lives in Lunglei district, he said.

According to sources, MHA’s Joint Secretary (NE), Satyendra Garg said that the Bru leaders in the relief camps would identify those who want to be repatriated and submit their names to the Centre and the Mizoram government.

The transportation cost for the repatriated families would be borne by the Mizoram government but no state government officials would be deployed at the relief camps to oversee the process, Garg was quoted as saying.

According to quadripartite agreement of July 3, over 32,857 Bru tribals would start returning to Mizoram from August. The multi-phase repatriation was scheduled to be completed by September 30.

Mizoram officials undertook repatriation between August 25 to 28, but the exercise turned futile as only three families returned to Mizoram as the rest were not happy with the repatriation package.

The Bru families demanded Area Development Council (ADC), land allocation and cluster village consisting at least 500 families, among others.

Lalbiakzama said that the state government is still firm on its stand that it could not allot land to the Bru families.

As per the Delhi agreement, the Bru families would receive financial assistant of Rs 4 lakh for each repatriated family, which would be deposited to their saving accounts. Each repatriated family would also be provided housing assistance to the tune of Rs 1.5 lakh. Apart from these, the Bru families would also be given a monthly stipend of Rs 5,000 per family for two years and free ration for the same period.

Fleeing communal tension triggered by the murder of a Mizo forest guard by Bru militants in 1997, thousands of Bru had left Mizoram and migrated to Tripura. Over 32,857 Bru people are currently lodging at six relief camps in north Tripura district.

Meanwhile, Equal Package Demand Committee (EPDC) has asked chief minister Lal Thanhawla to speed up measures so that the already repatriated families receive equal package in par with those who would be repatriated.

Quoting Garg, EPDC chairman Elvis Chorky, who attended the Monday meeting said the future of the already repatriated families whether or not they will receive equal package depends on the number of Bru families returning from Tripura this time.

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