After years of rejecting attempts at repatriation and accompanying rehabilitation packages, leaders of Bru relief camps in Tripura have said they will “fully co-operate” with the Mizoram government to repatriate more than 5,000 families living there for almost two decades.
The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) has said it welcomes the state government’s “assurance” to repatriate “each and every Bru” staying in the relief camps and “to further provide free rations for four years to the returnee Brus.” It has also welcomed the proposal to set up Central Monitoring Teams for the process.
The development comes after MBDPF leaders A Sawibunga, R Laldawngliana and Bruno Msha met officials from the Union Home Ministry and the state governments of Tripura and Mizoram in New Delhi last week. The new repatriation package has not been announced yet.
The Mizoram delegation’s head, Lalbiakzama, said the government was ready for the repatriation process and the original inhabitants of the state, particularly those who have been on its electoral rolls and their descendants, are welcome in Mizoram if they wish to return.
The last repatriation process, which took place between June and August this year, was a failure, with not a single Bru taking part in it after camp leaders rejected the rehabilitation package.
Thousands of Bru families left Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic violence over the killing of a Mizo official by Bru militants. They have lived in six relief camps in Tripura ever since, and only a little over a thousand families have come back since the repatriation packages began to be offered in 2010. However, most of them have returned on their own and not through the formal process, against which the resistance has been stiff.
In a letter to the MHA, the MBDPF leaders have demanded that 16 villages be set up to accommodate about 300 returnee families each, and that these villages be given the status of Village Councils (equivalents of panchayats). The body has also demanded land titles for the families who are allotted plots to build houses, and financial assistance enough to buy about 2.5 acres of farmland for each family.
In a separate letter to the Election Commission of India, the MBDPF has demanded that Mizoram’s Chief Electoral Officer be directed to carry out hearings for electoral roll revisions in the relief camps. In case of apprehensions about law and order problems, the MBDPF wants deputing of Election Observers or the Tripura CEO making arrangements.
Mizoram CEO Manisha Saxena had warned the MHA about potential law and order issues if election officials from the state are sent to the relief camps. NGOs, student unions as well as political parties in Mizoram had recently opposed voting rights for the camp residents in the camps, who, they said, refuse to come back to the state in spite of several attempts to bring them back over half a decade.