With the death of a four-month- old baby on Monday, six people have died so far in Bru relief camps in North Tripura district, which a forum for displaced Brus claims to be a result of "starvation".
Three persons are admitted to a hospital and the Bru refugees continued to stage road blockade in an area in Tripura bordering Mizoram since Thursday, demanding resumption of free ration and cash-dole to them.
Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) alleged that the people died of "starvation" after the Centre "stopped providing free ration and cash-dole" to the inmates of the relief camps from last month following commencement of the ninth and final repatriation process from October 3. The exercise is scheduled to be completed by November 30.
MBDPF general secretary, Bruno Msha, told PTI over phone from a relief camp in Tripura that the four-month-old baby, Pigili Reang, daughter of Khondro, died in Hamsapara relief camp on Monday morning.
Sexagerian Bistirung, one-year-old Akosha and three- month-old Ojitrai, all of them inmates of Naisingpara relief camp, had died of starvation on Sunday, Msha claimed.
Two inmates of Naisingpara relief camp had died on Thursday, he said.
The MPDPF general secretary said that three persons - Ramjoy Reang (65) of Ashapara relief camp, Reang Khumbarboti (60) of Naisingpara relief camp and Dobokumar (55) of Ashapara camp have been admitted to hospital.
"Six people died and three persons were hospitalised due to deprivation of free ration and cash-dole by the Centre from October due to the ongoing repatriation scheduled to be concluded on November 30," he said.
Senior district officials of North Tripura district could not be contacted despite several attempts.
Mizoram officials on duty at Kanchanpur said that the agitating Brus were not blocking the road targeting trucks carrying essential goods but trying to stop Mizoram officials who are to bring back Bru families.
Sub Divisional Magistrate of Kanchanpur Sub Division Abhedananda Baidya had said on Saturday that an enquiry was being conducted to ascertain the cause of death of the two inmates of Naisingpara relief camp on Thursday.
Protesting against the suspension of the free ration and cash-dole by the government, Bru refugees were staging road blockade between Dosda in Kanchanpur and Anandabazar area in North Tripura district since Thursday, which forced the Mizoram government to discontinue the repatriation process.
However, officials associated with the process were camping at the Mizoram-Tripura border village of Kanhmun.
Brus lodged in the relief camps have been demanding resumption of free ration and cash-dole to inmates of the camps. It was stopped by the Centre from last month as the ninth and final repatriation process commenced from October 3, officials said.
The ongoing repatriation is scheduled to be completed by November 30.
Each adult in the relief camps used to get Rs 2.67 and a minor Rs 1.33 a day as cash-dole while the quantity of rice was 450 gm for an adult per day and 225 gm for a minor per day as free ration before the commencement of the repatriation process.
The Centre had made it clear that the relief camps of Bru refugees in Tripura would be closed down and the displaced persons must be repatriated to Mizoram during the ongoing exercise, Special Secretary (internal security), Ministry of Home Affairs, A P Maheshwari, had said on October 16.
Over 4,000 Bru displaced families, lodged in the relief camps at Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of North Tripura district, are scheduled to return to neighbouring Mizoram from where they had fled since 1997 following ethnic clashes.
The Bru community, also called Reangs in Tripura, is among the 21 scheduled tribes in the country. They are scattered across Assam, Mizoram and Tripura.
Officials said that 216 Bru families have returned to Mizoram from the relief camps since October 3.
They also alleged that the "anti-repatriation elements have been instigating the agitation and hindering the process".
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.
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.
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