Mizoram Govt Carries out Re-Identification of Bru Refugees in Tripura Camps

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News Desk:

In a recent Bru re-identification drive carried out in the six relief camps of Tripura, the Mizoram government has so far declared 26,128 persons belonging to 4,278 families as bona fide residents of the state.

Mizoram home secretary Lalbiakzama told local reporters in Aizawl early this week that the re-identification drive of the bona fide residents of the state was completed on July 20. He though added that the figure was not final as he was yet to hold a meeting with the officials who carried out the drive in the camps in North Tripura.

Though an identification drive was carried out in the camps in 2018 too, the process was carried out once again because there could be a change in the number of people living in the camps due to births and deaths in the last one year.

A. Sawibunga, president of the Mizoram Bru Refugees Displaced Forum (MBRDF), told The Wirefrom Tripura, “I am particularly concerned about those people who were not identified in the 2016 drive carried out by the Mizoram government. There are about 350 families in this category of new claimants. This time, the state officials opened a separate counter for such families to take note of their births and deaths but we are yet to get a clear confirmation from the Mizoram government whether they have considered as the state’s residents. Though, in the last head count, their identification slips were updated. If they are not considered this time, then we are concerned about the fate of these people.”

The re-identification drive, carried out in the camps since July 3, was as per a decision the Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) of which MBRDF is a part, had reached with ministry of home affairs’ officials in New Delhi this past June 30. The repatriation of the refugees back to their home state Mizoram is likely to begin in September and is scheduled to be completed by October.

The Bru refugees have been residing in the camps in North Tripura bordering Mizoram since 1997 after a violent clash with the majority Mizo community. The communal tension between the Bru and the Mizo communities has been long drawn, leading to the birth of the armed group Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), and the political wing Bru National Union (BNU), which demanded an autonomous district similar to the Chakmas in Mizoram.

The battle lines firmed up in 1995 when the Young Mizo Association and Mizo Students Association opposed the presence of Brus in the state’s electoral rolls, claiming that they are not indigenous to the state. Things took an ugly turn on October 21, 1996, when the BNLF shot dead a Mizo official, triggering ethnic clashes in which many Bru villages were burnt down, pushing them to flee to neighbouring Tripura. They have since been staying at the relief camps in Tripura.

Since then, the central government, which dispatches separate funds to Tripura government for the upkeep of the refugees in the camps, has been embarking on a few rounds of repatriation beginning 2010.

According to local news reports, the present re-identification drive was carried out by officials from Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts to ascertain who belonged to these areas. The re-settlement of the refugees would take place in these three districts. While Kolasib and Mamit border Assam, Lunglei, contiguous to Mamit, shares international border with Bangladesh and Myanmar.

As per the last head count of the refugees conducted in November 2018 by Mizoram government, there were 32,876 Brus belonging to 5,407 families. Among them, only 33 families reportedly returned to the state.  Though the MHA put a lot of pressure on the refugees to return to Mizoram before the assembly elections in end 2018, the majority of them refused citing anomalies in the agreement the MHA had signed with representatives of the Mizoram Bru Refugees Displaced Forum on July 3, 2018 in New Delhi. 

Thereafter, the election commission set up polling booths in border areas of Mizoram and facilitated their voting, with help from Young Mizo Association, the influential church-backed civil society body in the state. 

Sawibunga told The Wire, “One of the main demands of the people was that the monetary benefit of Rs four lakhs promised by the Centre in the agreement should be given at one go and not put it in fixed deposits for two years. People want the money now, not after two years.” As per news reports, those who would return to the state would be provided free ration and Rs 5,000 per month per family for two years. 

“Some other minor points with the state government too are to be settled but I am hopeful that some solution will come and this re-settlement drive becomes the final round,” Sawibunga added.

A July 22 PTI report from Aizawl, quoting the chief secretary, however, said, “All the identified families expressed their willingness to return to Mizoram though opposition from hardliners and anti-repatriation elements could not be ruled out.” 

Reference: https://thewire.in/government/mizoram-govt-re-identification-bru-refugees-tripura-camps

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