New Delhi: Deprived of rations, Bru refugees settled in relief camps in Tripura announced on Tuesday, October 29, that they will launch an indefinite road blockade at Kanchanpur in the state’s North district from October 31.
The refugees have said that the blockade will continue until the government resumes providing them their rations. They had earlier threatened to loot government godowns for their survival, as their ration supplies and cash benefits have been halted since October 1.
On October 24, the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), Mizoram Bru Indigenous Democratic Movement (MBIDM) and Bru Tribal Development Society (BTDS) wrote a letter to the Kanchanpur Sub Divisional Magistrate, Abhedananda Baidya, saying that the decision taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop relief facilities was ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘violation of human rights’ as the repatriation process started from October 3. There are about 4,000 Bru families in Tripura’s refugee camps.
The supply of rations was stopped on the instructions of the Home Ministry in a bid to hastily complete the repatriation of the refugees to Mizoram. “...There will be a number of casualties due to starvation in the next few days as it is already 24 days since the rations and cash-dole have been stopped. The hungry and desperate camp inmates do not have any alternative option but to block the main road, looting of Government Godowns, etc. for their survival,” read the letter written by the refugees.
On Tuesday, Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) also wrote to North Tripura District Magistrate Raval Hamendra Kumar, informing him about the plan for ‘indefinite roadblock’ between Dasda and Anandabazaar in North Tripura from October 31. The memorandum submitted said, “…the displaced Brus are reluctant to repatriate due to non-consideration of minimum and simple demands raised by the MBDPF which are under the framework of the ‘Quadrilateral Agreement’”.
“The hungry and desperate displaced Brus can no longer withstand to see the incessant crying of innocent children, bedridden patients and lactating mothers for food, and such a horrible situation bound all the displaced Brus to block the said road to draw the kind attention of the Central Government, state government of Tripura and Mizoram from 31st October, 2019 till resumption of ration and cash-dole as earlier,” said the memorandum signed by MBDPF president of A Sawibunga and general secretary Bruno Msha.
The Brus want the Mizoram government to give five hectares of land per family, and cluster villages for the tribe. They also want the Mizoram government to provide at least one government job per family and cash assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh for each repatriated family. The most contentious demand, however, is “the facilitation of the creation of an autonomous district”, which the Mizoram government has repeatedly refused to even consider.
The Bru people inhabit an area consisting of parts of Mizoram, Tripura and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. In Tripura, they are known as Reang, whereas the people inhabiting Mizoram prefer to be called Bru. The tribe is not a part of the larger Mizo identity, and has formed one of the minority communities in the state. In the year 1997, the Bru National Union (BNU) passed a resolution demanding an Autonomous District Council, which was strongly opposed not just by the government, but also by the powerful Young Mizos Association (Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP)).
The demand for political autonomy was rejected, and the hardline elements within the movement launched an armed struggle. In 1997, the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) allegedly killed a Mizo forest guard in Mamit district. The killing received widespread condemnation, and was followed by ethnic riots, forcing 35,000 to 40,000 Bru villagers to flee Mizoram and seek shelter in camps in Tripura.
The refugees have lived in refugee camps in Tripura for over 20 years. According to a relief package announced by the government six months after Bru migrants’ arrival in Tripura in 1997, a total of 600 grams of rice is provided daily to every adult Bru person living in the camps and 300 grams of rice is allotted daily to minors. The package also has provisions for cash dole of Rs 5 per adult per day, Rs 2.5 for every minor in a day, a soap in one year, a pair of slippers every year and a mosquito net in every three years. The provisions have not been increased since. And now, have been completely stopped.