Six Bru refugees, including four children, residing at the relief camps in Kanchanpur, Tripura, died of starvation, as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the state had stopped the supply of rations to the camps. The supply of rations was stopped on the instructions of the Union Home Ministry in a bid to hastily complete the repatriation of the refugees to Mizoram.
Almost 37,000 Bru refugees have been living in six relief camps in Tripura since 1997, after they were forced to run away from ethnic violence in Mizoram. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been allocating separate funds to the Tripura government to supply monthly rations to the community. The refugees launched an indefinite road blockade at Kanchanpur in the state’s North district from October 31, demanding that the government resume the supply of their rations.
Talking to NewsClick, Jitendra Choudhury, president of Ganamukti Parishad (Tripura State Tribal People’s Liberation Council), said, “The central government had taken the decision to complete the repatriation by October, and hence stopped the supply of rations. As a result, 37,000 people who were dependent on the government for rations or dole, are starving to death.”
He added, “The locals, and some NGOs are trying to collect donations and feed as many people as they can. However, Tripura, being a small state, does not have NGOs that can feed so many people. It’s a responsibility that the state government has to take.”
Choudhury met the refugees on Sunday, November 3, and talked to them about the issues being faced by them. He said that even after so many efforts at repatriation, the refugees are unable to go back to Mizoram because of the Mizoram government’s refusal to meet even the simplest of their demands. He said that when the refugees were asked why they don’t want to go back, they told him, “We want to go back. We really want to go back to where we belong, even if we have to struggle for our livelihoods. But the government is not ready to help us.”
The refugees also accepted that earlier, they had raised demands, which were not feasible for the government to meet, but now, they only want the most basic demands to be fulfilled. They had sent a joint memorandum to Home Minister Amit Shah on October 21, stating their demands. A copy of the memorandum had also been sent to the chief minister of Mizoram. They made it clear that they have revoked their demand of an Autonomous District Council, that was strongly opposed by the Mizoram government.
Choudhury said, “The Indian government’s reluctance to solve the issue has led to this situation. We urge the state government and the central government to resume the supply of rations, or these people will starve to death. This is a violation of their human rights. The political parties use these people for votes before elections. Now, when these people are going through a humanitarian crisis, they have conveniently chosen to ignore them.”
Also read: Stoppage of Rations: Bru Refugees in Tripura Threaten Indefinite Road Blockade