The Mizoram government is determined to complete the repatriation of 33,000 Bru refugees who have been lodged in six relief camps at Tripura for the past 22 years. A team of high-level officials is expected to visit the camps at Casco, Kahkchand, Hamchapara, Ashapara, Naishingpara and Gachimapara in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of Tripura to begin the repatriation process.
The repatriation process of Bru people, also known as Reang people, touted to be the last repatriation process, is likely to begin in October this year. The time was agreed upon during a meeting between government officials and NGOs in Mizoram on Wednesday.
The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), an umbrella organization of the displaced Brus, has demanded that all pending issues be first resolved for the repatriation to begin. The organization claims that a thousand families “were still uncertain about their security post repatriation and therefore unwilling to return to Mizoram.”
Moreover, there are at least a thousand new families to be identified by the Mizoram government and be made eligible for repatriation, the MBDPF claims. It further says that only 423 families have thus far expressed willingness to return to Mizoram.
“Besides, the Bru people want to settle in a contiguous area in Mizoram for their own safety, integrity, unity, preservation of culture, language and identity. As such, we want the rehabilitation centres located in a contiguous area. Currently, they are scattered, with a few of them on the outskirts, which is not suitable,” MBDPF general secretary Bruno Msha said.
It is alleged that leaders of the Brus have been delaying the repatriation process themselves for allegedly vested interests. Former Home Minister Rajnath Singh was keen on ensuring the repatriation of the Brus, however, it was stalled by the Bru leaders over one excuse or another. With Amit Shah now at the helm, who is widely believed to straighten things out with an iron hand, the lengthy repatriation process could very well be completed within this year.
The Brus had escaped from Mizoram following large-scale violence against them in 1997. Repatriation of Bru people to Mizoram was started in 2010, and around 1600 families were resettled in the state, but the process was stopped after Mizo organisations started protesting. The people in camps also expressed fear in going back. Since then, they are living in Tripura, with financial and other assistance from the central government.
While the Mizoram government appears to be taking positive steps to ensure their repatriation, ethnic hatred still prevails against them in the state as is quite evident from the unwillingness to grant them voting rights. Not just Mizo organisations, even the previous Congress government in the state had also opposed giving voting rights to Bru refugees, and even had fought with the Election Commission over the issue. The EC had to remove the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the state to ensure smooth conduct of the assembly election last year as the CM himself was demanding his removal over the voting rights of Bru people. The Current CM Mizo organisations claim that Bru people are not native to the state, and that why the people living in the camps in Tripura are apprehensive of returning to the state unless their demands are met.