Less than a fortnight after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the signing of an agreement that would repatriate displaced Bru families living in Tripura since 1997 to Mizoram before September 30, the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) withdrew from the deal, saying the terms agreed upon between the governments aof Mizoram, Tripura and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) were not acceptable to the Bru community.
MBDPF general secretary Bruno Msha told The Indian Express over phone Monday: “We have informed the MHA that the terms are not acceptable to our community. They (the Bru) want permission to construct temples in Mizoram, cluster housing and land for cultivation. These demands are not acceptable to the Mizoram government.”
Reached for comment, the MHA spokesperson said: “Our representative is present in Tripura and we are awaiting a report. We abide by the agreement and for those who want to return, the agreement still stands.”
In a letter announcing withdrawal from the agreement, MBDPF president A Sawibunga, one of the signatories to the agreement, said they were pulling out “due to strong agitation” by the Bru people against the MBDPF leaders.
Officials said more than 5,000 displaced Bru surrounded the MBDPF office in Tripura and demanded immediate withdrawal from the agreement. They threatened to physically harm the MBDPF leaders, prompting police and the state administration to rush in.
Asked if the MBDPF would renegotiate the terms of agreement with the Mizoram government and the Centre, Msha said, “We will consult our people and decide the future course of action”. He said the Bru families were not ready to accept the financial aid of Rs 4 lakh to each family in fixed deposit and wanted the compensation money in their savings accounts.
Soon after the agreement was signed, Sawibunga too said: “The Mizoram government laid down the condition that we will have to drop our political demands which included creation of an autonomous council, assembly seat and job reservation. Presently, we are looking at resettlement but the state government should realise that the prosperity of Mizoram depends on the development of minorities (the Bru).”
On July 3, the MHA announced that displaced Bru families, under the agreement, would be repatriated to Mizoram and given a one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh, a house and free ration for two years. Families were also promised a monthly assistance of Rs 5,000.
Each of the 5,407 families was to receive the one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh in fixed deposit in the name of the head of the family within a month of repatriation. Besides cash assistance, the Bru families were to receive house-building assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh in three instalments.
The agreement was signed by Rina Mitra, Special Secretary (Internal Security), Sanjeev Ranjan, Chief Secretary of Tripura, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, Principal Secretary of Mizoram and A Sawibunga, MBDPF president, in the presence of Rajnath Singh, Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla and Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb.
A committee under Special Secretary (Internal Security), the MHA said, would coordinate implementation of the agreement.
Largely restricted to the districts of Mamit and Kolasib in Mizoram, the Bru fled their homes in the 1990s following a wave of ethnic violence — Mizo organisations had been demanding that the Bru be left out of the state’s electoral rolls, arguing that the community was not indigenous to Mizoram.