As the ninth phase of Bru repatriation to Mizoram draws near, the migrants have revised their demands and put forth a two-point charter for the final resolution of the impasse.
At least 32,000 Brus live in six makeshift relief camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of North Tripura. They fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram during ethnic clashes in 1997.
In a press conference at Agartala Press Club this evening, Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) general secretary Bruno Msha said, “We have been stepping down our demands for last several years but there is still no solution. Our people are not agreed to return as per existing repatriation package which we signed in July last year. So, we have put forth just two demands for successful resolution of the impasse.”
He said the Bru migrants want to be resettled at Dampa reserve forest, which was declared a tiger reserve in 1986. Brus, who are amongst the minority tribal communities of Mizoram such as Lai, Hmar and Chakma, claim they were traditional dwellers of Dampa forest, till it was declared a tiger reserve.
“There is no tiger there anymore. Prime Minister Modi said on tiger conservation day last year too that there is no tiger there. We want to be resettled at Dampa forest,” Bruno said.
He expects his proposal will keep families of Bru migrants together since many from separate districts were married in the camps. In fact, according to the existing repatriation package, migrants would have to return to their district of origin, triggering apprehensions of families being split in the process.
As part of their 2-point demand, Brus have also sought development package under the Ministry of DoNER, Ministry of Tribal Welfare and Ministry of Minority Welfare. “This package would have to supplement the existing repatriation benefits including Rs. 4 lakh one-time cash benefit, Rs. 1.5 lakh sustenance assistance, land allotment, free ration etc.,” Bruno said.
Three Bru organisations – MBDPF, MBIDM and BTDS – came forth with the new demands and said if fulfilled, these would pave way for ending Bru repatriation impasse, once and for all. However, if the Government of India failed to convince Mizoram to facilitate their resettlement in the tiger reserve, Bru leaders said, an alternate amicable solution has to be worked out.
Meanwhile, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb wrote to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on November 17 seeking to permanently settle “not more than 400-500 families” in a particular sub-division of the state. The CM’s letter also said Indian citizens should not stay as refugees in their own country and so, those who want to stay back in Tripura may be allowed to do so. The state government sought a “suitable package” on similar terms offered for repatriation.
His letter, which recently came to the fore, has raised several questions on why only 500 out of nearly 5,000 Bru migrant families living here would be settled in Tripura and what would happen to the rest.
Indianexpress.com tried to verify the issue with a senior officer at the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), but he denied having any knowledge of the letter.
The CM’s letter came in quick succession to a letter from Tripura royal scion Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma, who wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah seeking to permanently resettle Bru migrants in the state. In the letter, Debbarma argued that their history is closely related to Tripura.
As the newfound interest to resettle Brus plays out, new demands of migrants came at the fag end of the ongoing ninth phase of repatriation scheduled to conclude on November 30. Over 700 people have returned in this phase till now and 5,000 returned in the previous eight phases.