The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would close down all Bru refugee camps in north Tripura district after September 25 if the refugees don’t return to Mizoram, joint secretary Satyendra Garg said on Sunday.
A team of MHA officials, including special secretary (internal security) Rina Mitra, adviser Mahesh Kumar Singla and joint secretary Satyendra Garg, has been camping in Tripura since the last couple of days to oversee the implementation of the repatriation of displaced Bru tribals as per the agreement signed on July 3 between the Centre, governments of Mizoram, Tripura and Bru refugees.
Speaking to reporters at Assam Rifles sector headquarters, Garg said the repatriation process was being carried out as per the agreement. The repatriation is scheduled to commence from August 25 and end on September 25. “The repatriation agreement was proposed by the Mizoram government in 2015. 32,876 refugees from over 5,000 families were identified by them and repatriation is being executed after discussion and agreement with Bru refugee leaders,” Garg said.
MHA officials interacted with Bru refugees for two days at Damcherra in Kanchanpur, which is close to the Tripura-Mizoram border. The refugees have expressed discontent at the package and pressed for a host of new demands, including Area Development Council (ADC), cluster villages, increased land entitlement and so on.
To this, Garg said land was community property and neither the state nor Central government could grant demand for more land. However, he assured that on relocation, at least 50 refugees would be settled in each village. About 39,000 refugees fled Mamit, Kolasib, Lunglei districts after ethnic clashes in 1997. Nearly 9,000 were repatriated in seven phases.
“I have visited those who returned to Mizoram in previous phases of repatriation. I don’t feel there is any security threat. Still, the refugees would be accommodated in their native villages. In case of shortage of land, they will be accommodated in villages at close proximity,” Garg said.
Garg also said the Bru refugees could choose to stay back in Tripura after the repatriation deadline was over. “But the Central government will stop distribution of relief and close down camps in Tripura,” he said.
As per the repatriation agreement, refugees will be given Rs 1.5 lakh for housing assistance in three installments, Rs four lakh for sustenance, free ration for two years and Rs 5,000 per month. However, the cash assistance of Rs four lakh will be provided only after three years of uninterrupted stay in Mizoram.
The arrangements in the agreement failed to go down well with the refugees. However, Garg said the arrangement could be relaxed, allowing the refugees to withdraw 90 per cent cash from the Rs 4 lakh assistance as bank loan immediately after their return. The remaining amount will be provided after two years. Identity-related documents like Aadhaar, ration card, bank account details, documents of land settlement will be updated for all returning refugees.