Pact to end Bru refugee crisis may be signed today

Esha Roy
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Home Minister Amit Shah. (File photo)

An agreement to end the 22-year-old Bru refugee crisis may be signed on Thursday when Union Home Minister Amit Shah meets Chief Ministers of Mizoram and Tripura and representatives of Bru tribes.

According to the new agreement, approximately 35,000 Bru refugees will settle in Tripura and will be given aid to help with their rehabilitation. Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb agreed to the settling of the Bru tribals — called Reangs in Tripura — in November last year.

“According to the 2018 agreement, the Bru tribals would have settled in Mizoram, but they will now settle in Tripura according to this new agreement. Let’s see how tomorrow’s meeting with the Home Minister goes,’’ said Mizoram Chief Minister Pu Zoramthanga, who arrived in Delhi on Wednesday.

According to sources, the stakeholders in the issue expect a package of Rs 600 crore from the Centre.

On the cards is individual plots of land with pattas to be given to each Bru family in addition to agricultural land. According to the draft agreement, each plot will be of 2,500 sq ft and a stipend of Rs 5,000 per month and free ration would be provided to each family for the next two years. Also, Bru tribals would be included in Tripura’s voter list.

The Brus inhabit an area spread across parts of Mizoram, Tripura and the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. 1997, the Bru National Union passed a resolution demanding an Autonomous District Council, which was opposed by the government and the Young Mizos Association (Mizo Zirlai Pawl or MZP). Hardline elements within the autonomy movement then launched an armed struggle. In 1997, Bru National Liberation Front allegedly killed a Mizo forest guard. The killing was followed by ethnic riots, forcing 35,000 to 40,000 Bru villagers to flee Mizoram and seek shelter in Tripura, where they have been staying since.

According to a relief package announced six months after Bru migrants arrived in Tripura in 1997, 600 gm of rice is provided daily to every adult living in the camps and 300 gm to minors. The package also has provisions for a cash dole of Rs 5 per adult per day and Rs 2.5 for every minor.

In October 2019, the supply of ration was stopped on instructions of the Home Ministry in a bid to hastily complete the repatriation of refugees to Mizoram. Civil society outfits had alleged that at least six refugees died due to starvation. At least seven repatriation attempts have failed in the past 22 years.