Agartala/Aizawl, Oct 7 (PTI) Protests over the killing of a Bru woman allegedly by her husband in Mamit district of Mizoram, bordering Tripura, has stalled the on-going repatriation of Bru refugees who put up blockades in protest on Monday, officials said.
In the ninth round of repatriation which is termed as the "final" one, altogether 4,447 Bru families, lodged in six relief camps in Tripura, are scheduled to return to the neighbouring state from where they had fled since 1997 following ethnic clashes.
A total of 51 Bru families returned to Mizoram since the repatriation began on October 3.
Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Abhedananda Baidya said a group of women, who are inmates of the refugee camps, shouted slogans in protest against the killing of Linda Bru, who was allegedly burnt to death by her Mizo husband on October 3 in Mamit district of Mizoram.
Mamit is one of the districts where the displaced Bru community people are scheduled to be resettled. All six refugee camps are at Kanchanpur sub-division in North Tripura district bordering Mamit.
"The protestors put up road blockades near the Ashapara camp. Repatriation could not take place on Monday.
The Mizoram officials who had come with buses to take the refugees returned with police escorts arranged by Kanchanpur sub-division administration," Baidya told PTI.
The camp inmates started protesting at about 8.30 am and called it off at noon following a discussion with their leaders, he said.
Officials of Kolasib district of Mizoram had planned to repatriate around 100 Bru families from Naisingpara relief camp, said Samuel, one of the Liasion officers for Bru repatriation from Kolasib.
"We returned to Mizoram escorted by security personnel provided by the SDM of Kanchanpur sub-division from Naisingpara without bringing any Bru family," Samuel said.
Officials of the Mamit district said they had also planned to repatriate a large number of Bru families from Kaskau and Khakchangpara relief camps on Monday, but called it off as the situation was not found to be conducive for it.
Earlier on October 4, posters opposing the repatriation and demand for a separated autonomous district council for the Bru community were found in the relief camps.
However, no untoward incident was reported then.
The repatriation is scheduled to continue till November 30.
Mizoram Bru Indigenous Democratic Movement leader Phillip Apeto had said they were not satisfied with the rehabilitation package and a district council for the Brus under the sixth schedule of the constitution must be created.
A memorandum submitted by three Bru organisations to Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana last week expressed fear that Bru community would lose their identity if they return to Mizoram in the present situation.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had warned last year that the relief camps would be closed down from October one and free ration and money doled to the displaced families would be discontinued after the eighth phase of repatriation which did not bore much fruit.
While the MHA did stop the free ration and cash dole from October one, 2018, the Centre restarted it apparently due to political reasons as Mizoram assembly election was nearing.
The Centre has approved Rs 350 crore for the ninth phase of repatriation and the amount covers transportation and rehabilitation package expenses, which include Rs 5,000 per month for each resettled Bru family in Mizoram and free ration for them for two years.
Eight attempts had been made to repatriate the Brus, also called Reangs, and only around 1,681 families have returned to Mizoram since 2010 and were resettled in Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts.
The vexed Bru problem started when the Bru people, spearheaded by an organisation, Bru National Union, demanded a separate autonomous district council by carving out areas of western Mizoram adjoining Bangladesh and Tripura in September, 1997.
The situation was aggravated by the murder of a forest guard in the Dampa Tiger Reserve in western Mizoram by Bru National Liberation Front insurgents on October 21, 1997.
The first attempt to repatriate the Brus from Tripura from November 16, 2009 not only fizzled out due to the murder of a Mizo youth at Bungthuam village on November 13, 2009, but also triggered another wave of exodus.