The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) has claimed that six people including babies have died in relief camps since October 29 “because of starvation” after the Centre stopped the supply of ration and cash dole to the 35,000 refugees earlier last month.
Brus allege that except one, none of the others were even taken to hospital for treatment.
“As the Centre stopped supply of our food and cash dole, many of the camp inmates have suffered the most. We had stocks of food for first few days. Six persons died because of starvation. They were not treated before their death. Only one infant was taken to hospital where he died,” said MBDPF general secretary Bruno Msha.
The local administration however, maintains that the casualty figure is four and that they are yet to confirm the reasons for the deaths.
“Post mortem of two of the bodies were done. Samples have been sent to Agartala Government Medical College and forensic laboratory. Reports are awaited,” said one senior administrative official on condition of anonymity.
Protesting against the Centre’s decision to stop ration, the refugees have enforced road blockade between Dasda and Anandabazar at Kanchanpur in the district since October 31 from 5 am to 5 pm.
Anticipating trouble due to the blockade, the state government imposed Section 144 measures since Tuesday midnight. Despite the prohibitory measures, the blockade continued peacefully on Wednesday.
Young agitators like, Uday Msha, Rinmoy Reang, Dhanuram Reang and Justin said they would not end their indefinite road blockade till their demand of food is met.
“We are citizens of India. We will not stop our agitation until and unless the Government of India resumes our food along with cash dole. We have heard the administration has imposed Section 144 around our movement spot. Still, we will continue the road blockade,” said 23-year old Rinmoy Reang.
The agitators demanded creation of an autonomous district council (ADC), a cluster of villages for them and proper security for their repatriation to Mizoram failing which they would remain in Tripura.
Nayanti Reang (33) said she didn’t have any stock of food at her camp but have managed to feed her and her family with the rations supplied by few social organizations.
“Wherever we would be given place to stay, be it Tripura, Assam or Mizoram, we would go. But we should be given a particular area so that we, Brus could stay together and enrich our heritage. We also have demand of ADC. None of the demands are taken into consideration. So, on what assurance, will we go back to our native state? And we will continue the blockade till we are provided food,” said Nayanti.
Taramoti Reang, 50, and others of her age yearn to go back to Mizoram if they are assured of cluster of villages, security and all other government facilities after their repatriation. “It seems the government is not in mood to listen to us. So, we have decided that we will stay here till out few demands are met,” said Reang, a participant in the blockade.
Former Congress president in Tripura Pradyot Kishore Deb Burman and few other local indigenous- based party leaders met the agitators on Wednesday.
“Most of the Reangs were displaced for Dumbur dam, the state’s hydropower project in 1974. They should get land here. I will speak to Tripura and Mizoram governments for them. If they are not willing to give land, I will try to arrange on my own. And I will file writ petition in Tripura High Court soon on denial of ration to them as it violates Article 21 of our Indian Constitution,” Burman said.
The former Congress chief had sent rice and other food items to the camp during their movement for food. Like him, few social organisations have provided food to the refugees.
Over 37,000 Bru people came to Tripura in 1997 to escape an ethnic clash in Mizoram. They settled in six camps - three each at Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub divisions of North district, around 200 kilometres from Agartala.
After more than two decades, the Centre signed a pact with Tripura and Mizoram governments and MBDPF in New Delhi on July 3 last year for repatriation of over 5000 families.
The agreement promised Rs.4 lakh as fixed deposit, Rs. 5,000 for a period of two years with Rs. 1.50 lakh for construction of house to each family after their repatriation.
Nearly 5,000 Bru displaced persons have returned to Mizoram in eight phases of repatriation started since 2009.
At present, nearly 4,000 Bru families are staying in the six camps. Over 480 families have been repatriated to Mizoram since October 3. The repatriation process would continue till November 30.
The MHA in a notification on November 4 said no ration would be released for the Brus this month but decided to give additional Rs. 25,000 to each Bru family in lieu of ration and transportation only if they repatriate between November 5 to 7.
In the past two days, no repatriation has taken place, said Kanchanpur Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Abhedananda Baidya.