A. Khamwana, Bijoy Bru, Siama Roinompha Reang and others have been living at Naisao, aka Nabajoypara, refugee camp and Kashirampur, a part of Nabajoypara camp, in Kanchanpur sub-division of Tripura’s north district for last nine years. But these refugees appear nowhere in the talks for repatriation of Brus to Mizoram for theirs is a forgotten lot.
“We lived in villages of Mamit and Kolasib districts of Mizoram. A youth called Zarzokima was found dead in 2009 in Mizoram and fresh clashes erupted between the Mizo and Bru communities. Our houses were burnt, our livestock looted. We had to run for our lives to Tripura. But after all these years, we are out of all discussions for repatriation,” A. Khamwana, a leader of refugees in Naisao camp tells indianexpress.com.
f refugees, who haveA 20-km-long serpentine road leads to this colony o lived in seclusion from public life for nearly a decade. With the passage of time, they became so detached from public life that many camp inmates died just because they couldn’t afford the Rs 40 Jeep fare to go to the nearest hospital. “Around 50 persons died in this camp in the last nine years. Many of them have died without treatment. It takes Rs 40 on a Jeep which connects an adjacent habitation with Kanchanpur Hospital. We have to shell out Rs 50 to go to Dharmanagar Sub-Divisional Hospital. There was no cash dole for us from the government. How could we afford such high transport fares?”
Nearly 37,000 Bru families fled their villages there and took shelter in Kanchanpur and Panisagar in North Tripura in 1997. Talks for their repatriation were going on when a Mizo youth Zarzokima was found dead in 2009. The talks were dropped soon after and several Bru families fled their homes to take shelter in Tripura. These ‘newcomers’ set up Naisao camp, which now has 335 refugee families.
Meanwhile, over 5,000 refugees returned to Mizoram in eight phases of repatriation. Around 150 refugees from 42 families were repatriated in the last phase of repatriation which ended on September 25 this year. But none from Naisao were even consulted, nor were their plea for consideration in the repatriation package considered.
“We are from Mizoram and we are as Indian as anybody else. I heard that Mizoram government has stated they would not recognise Naisao camp. We haven’t met any officer from Tripura, Mizoram or the central government in all these years. Sometimes, health camps are organised near our camp and we get some medicines. All we want is to get the benefit of repatriation package offered by Government of India and be sent back to Mizoram,” says Khamwana. He adds that Naisao camp inmates will be happy with any repatriation package with which the majority of Bru refugees in Tripura agree to.
However, younger refugees in the camp feel they need proper security and ‘separate land’ (cluster villages) after repatriation in Mizoram. “We want to go back to Mizoram. We are agreed to go back on any term which majority of refugees will agree with. But we are afraid that those from Mizo community might attack us after going back. So, we want security after repatriation,” says Rajesh Kumar Rang, 28. Rajesh fled from Parvatwi village in Mamit district.
Sadinrung Reang, 33, hails from Kolalian village in Mamit district. She wants safety and wellbeing of her children. “We don’t want to stay here as refugees all our lives. We want to go back home and lead a normal life. Our children should get education and other benefits. But we also want safety,” she reiterates.
Bijoy Bru, another inmate at Naisao, said there is no arrangement of even toilets in the camp. People still choose the jungles as lavatories and risk worm infections, snake bites and other health hazards. The camp doesn’t have any safe drinking water supply either. A nearby stream which gets dry in the summers is all they have.
Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abhedananda Baidya tells indianexpress.com that all ration supplies and cash dole were halted to Bru refugee camps from October 1. There are three Bru camps in Kanchanpur sub-division and three other in Panisagar sub-division. Panisagar SDM L. Darlong says she issued a notification asking all supplies to be halted to refugee camps under her jurisdiction from October 1. The decision to stop supplies to the refugee camps have come from Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after the refugees declined to accept repatriation package and return to Mizoram within September 25 as per an agreement with the central government.
Though Naisao is not a recognised refugee camp in the government records, Government of Tripura had arranged for a minimal supply of rice and salt to them. These supplies were also halted along with the six other camps.
“The rice was never sufficient for us. Since we didn’t get any cash dole, we used to sell off some of the rice and buy oil, medicines etc. Besides, there are wild potatoes, arum roots, bamboo shoots and other forest produce which we eat. If the rice stops, we shall have to depend on these alone,” says Siama Reang. The refugees also practice jhum or shifting cultivation in few nearby hills to manage the deficit of rice. But the lack of proper food supply is clear in the faces of the visibly malnourished children at the camp.