Why Brus risk hunger over home

For hours, Zoremi Moshoy refused to leave the bedside where her year-old infant, Akosa, lay. That she had helplessly watched her child die was impossible to process. And that it had been over just Rs 5 and 600g rice a day more so.
For every Bru refugee in Tripura, displaced from Mizoram over the past two decades by ethnic clashes, the government aid of Rs 5 and 600g rice a day has been the sole means of sustenance. On October 1, the Centre decided the aid had to stop — the Brus had lived in Tripura camps long enough and it thought it was time they went “home” to Mizoram. By cutting off all supplies, perhaps the process could be sped up.
Last October, too, the Centre had stopped aid for a few days, hoping it would push the refugees across the border to their designated homes. But the Mizoram election was drawing closer and it softened administrative resolve. The move was withdrawn.
This time also government has relented, resuming supplies after a week-long protest. But in the unequal game of who blinks first, six Bru refugees died. Four of them were children — three-month-old Ojitrai, four-month-old Pigili Reang, Akosa and two-year-old John Chongprengh. Two others, Bistirung Reang and Makota Reang, were older than 60.
Within the refugee camp, the reason is clear. “Hunger weakened them. Most people here dont have enough to eat,” said Bruno Msha, general secretary of the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum.
Government has refuted the premise and acknowledged only four deaths. “Two children and two adults have died in Naisingpara. Their bodies were buried. We exhumed the body of an adult for postmortem but the report will take a month. Till that happens, we can only say they died of unknown causes,” subdivisional magistrate of Kanchanpur, Abhedananda Baidya, said.
For the past week, the Dasda-Anandabazar road, off NH-8 in North Tripura district, had been occupied by over 300 refugees from all seven camps, demanding state aid be resumed. As the crisis deepened, Tripura deputy CM Jishnu Dev Varma announced government would resume supplies. But only till November 30, by when government plans on completing the Bru repatriation. “You cant live as refugees forever. You must accept the rehabilitation package and move back to live with dignity,” Dev Varma told the Brus.
But the Brus dont want to go to Mizoram, and not on the terms the government has laid out. For many, memories of Mizoram dont exist, have faded or are ones theyd rather not hold on to. The camps in Tripura have very little to offer — no healthcare, no schools, no jobs. The drinking water is muddy, the thatched huts are crumbling. But there is peace and no fear of persecution.
In Mizorams impenetrable Christian society, communities like Bru and Chakma have always been seen as “outsiders”. In 1997, the tension between Mizo and Bru communities came to a head when a Bru militant allegedly gunned down a Mizo forest guard. In the retaliatory violence, around 50,000 Brus fled to Tripura. Today, refugee camps have about 30,000 members.
Sentiments about Brus across the border in Mizoram remain the same. Before the last repatriation attempt, the Young Mizo Association (YMA), Mizorams most powerful social organisation, had said “too many people will migrate to Mizoram if they think of it as their land”. Now, the stand is cautious but just as exclusionary. “If Brus want to stay on in Tripura, there Read More – Source

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