On the first day of the ongoing repatriation process Thursday, 162 Bru Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from 32 families returned to Mizoram. Out of 37,000 displaced, who fled their villages in Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram 22 years back in 1997, 32,000 still live in six transit camps at North Tripura district.
Nearly 5,000 went back through eight phases of repatriation previously — many of whom have returned complaining about bad living conditions.
Repatriation is happening in the camps amidst an indefinite halt of food, ration supplies and cash dole previously allowed to the IDPs from the Government of India, who have alleged that they are being coerced to return with the threat of starvation looming on the camps.
On the first day of the ninth phase of repatriation, 32 families from Hezacherra relief camp returned to Mizoram, heading towards Lunglei district. People from none of the other five camps returned.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Abhedananda Baidya said that information was disseminated among all six designated camps of Tripura. However, 162 people from 32 families turned up for repatriation on the first day.
The repatriation process would continue for the next 30 days, till November 3. However, the dates would vary for the camps since the number of people hailing from three districts of Mizoram are widely different, officials say.
The central government halted food supplies to the camps twice previously — first in October 2018 when the IDPs rejected their repatriation offer. Supplies were restored 21 days after it was suspended, amid severe food crisis in the camps.
Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) president Apeto Sawibunga said a majority of the Bru IDPs are not interested to return under existing conditions of repatriation.
“We took the majority opinion for the repatriation issue. Accordingly, we have decided our stand. All the camp inmates were discussed on the repatriation offer and all details were furnished to them. It seems the majority of the people may not be willing to go back at this stage”, Sawibunga said.
A team of over 30 officials from the Mizoram government were dispatched to Tripura to oversee the repatriation process.
Among them, Lalfiaksangi, who heads the team dealing with the IDPs from Lunglei district, said 32 families accepted repatriation package and returned today. He added that repatriation would continue for the next few weeks and anyone interested in going back can register themselves with officials stationed at each Bru camp.
Tomochi, who is heading the Mizoram repatriation operations for the IDPs from Kolasib district, said no one has returned today.
The IDPs from Mamit district are sheltered only in Kaskau relief camp in Panisagar sub-division, right across the Tripura-Mizoram inter-state boundary. Three families from this camp signed up for repatriation but haven’t returned yet, informed Mang, head of Mizoram government’s repatriation operations for Mamit district.