The Centre, the governments of Tripura and Mizoram and representatives of Bru tribe signed a new agreement on Thursday to settle the 22-year-old refugee crisis of the community. The over 30,000-strong community that settled in Tripura in the 90s after fleeing ethnic violence in Mizoram will now remain in Tripura, according to the new pact.
In 2018, the government signed an agreement with the stakeholders concerned to send all Bru refugees living in camps in Tripura to Mizoram and settle them there. However, despite a government package providing assistance for relocation, only 328 families chose to go to Mizoram.
Under the new agreement, a package of Rs 600 crore has been earmarked for a period of two years to help settle the refugees in Tripura. This will include free plots of land, Rs 1.5 lakh assistance to build a house, Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit for each family, free ration for two years and Rs 5,000 per month as assistance.
Why Brus refused to go to Mizoram
Of the 37,000-odd Bru people who had fled from Mizoram to Tripura in 1997, only about 5,000 went back to Mizoram over the several phases of repatriation. Last year, some leaders of the community signed an agreement with the Centre and governments of Mizoram and Tripura. This pact paved the way for their resettlement in Mizoram. Most residents of the relief camps in Tripura rejected the terms of the agreement, terming them insufficient. They also said the pact does not guarantee their safety in Mizoram.
The agreement was signed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Mizoram Chief Minister Pu Zoramthanga, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb and representatives of the Bru community, who are called Reang in Tripura.
“Because of tension in 1997 in Mizoram, over 30,000 Bru refugees were displaced and had been living in pitiable condition in camps. The July 3 (2018) agreement could not fructify. So, lastly it was decided that all Reang families will stay in Tripura itself. All Bru organisations have agreed and the two (state) governments have also agreed. Each family will be given 40/30 plot apart from other assistance. After 23 years, this problem is going to be solved. This is a permanent solution. I believe both governments will work together for their development as will the government of India,” Home Minister Shah said.
Shah added that the development was in line with the Narendra Modi government’s resolve to solve all Northeast problems. “Reang were living in inhuman conditions. There was no drainage, no water and no healthcare. Now they will be able to live with dignity. I promise that this agreement will reach its logical conclusion,” Shah said, adding that the Bru people will become Tripura’s citizens and have voting rights there. “If someone, however, wants to go to Mizoram, he/she can go,” he added.
Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who accompanied Shah and was part of the negotiations as the convener of North East Democratic Alliance, said the government was planning cluster housing for the refugees and land needed for settling them would be acquired by the Tripura government.
“We have addressed grievances of the people. Once they settle down, a lot of welfare programmes will reach them,” he said, adding that Brus who have already gone to Mizoram cannot return.
Zoramthanga said the decision had been arrived at after a long discussion. “Our problem is permanently solved now,” he said.
Tripura CM Deb said, “For so many years, they were living as refugees in their own country. People tried but a solution could not be found. This is the first time two states have come together to solve this.”
Tripura royal scion Kirit Pradyot Deb Barman, who was present for the signing of the agreement, said he was giving 35 acres of land for settlement of the Bru refugees.
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