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Infant, Elderly Man Die of 'Starvation' in Tripura Bru Relief Camp, Leaders Warn of Humanitarian Crisis

As many as 4000 families displaced from the seven relief camps of Tripura are demonstrating against the government’s decision to discontinue ration supply even before the completion of the ninth repatriation process.

Karishma Hasnat | CNN-News18

Updated:November 4, 2019, 8:41 AM IST
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Infant, Elderly Man Die of 'Starvation' in Tripura Bru Relief Camp, Leaders Warn of Humanitarian Crisis
Bru refugees hold protest in Tripura

Two more persons, including an infant, died allegedly of starvation at a relief camp for Bru refugees in Tripura Sunday morning as the road blockade in areas bordering Mizoram continued for the fourth consecutive day to protest the suspension of essential supplies by the government.

Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) vice president, R Dawngliana, said the death toll among the refugees has now risen to four since Thursday after the Centre “stopped providing free ration and cash-dole” to inmates of the relief camps last month. The MBDPF is a committee of Bru refugees and one of the signatories to the Four Corner Agreement with the Centre on repatriation.

As many as 4,000 families displaced from the seven relief camps of Tripura are demonstrating against the government’s decision to discontinue ration supply even before the completion of the ninth repatriation process.

Demanding the immediate resumption of ration and cash-dole for the ‘starving’ families, the Bru leaders said that they would not call off the dawn-to-dusk road blockade till all demands are met. “The relief was stopped on October 30, whereas the month long repatriation process that began on October 3 was to end November 30. How do we survive for one month?” asked Dawngliana.

“Let the repatriation continue, but we will not lift the road blockade till our ration is released by the central government. People are dying of starvation here. We have received donations from few individuals who visited us, and have distributed it among the families,” he said.

Bru refugees

Bru refugees demonstrate against government’s decision to discontinue ration supply.

“We were receiving 600 gram rice per day per head, and half of the quantity went to our children. We also used to get Rs 5 per day for every adult, while half of that was received in cash by every minor. We don’t have any extra income, and that is why most of the people are starving today. In fact, 80 per cent of the families are starving,” he added, while warning of a humanitarian crisis as casualties continue to grow.

Demonstrators holding placards - “No Ration, No Rest”, “Stoppage of ration is Inhuman”, “Don’t force us for empty stomach repatriation” were seen blocking the road between Dasda and Anandabazar in Kanchanpur.

The bodies of the two who died on Sunday - 65-year-old Bishtirung and one-year-old Akosa – were laid to rest. They were in Naisingpara relief camp under Kanachanpur sub-division.

On October 31, a three-month old baby, John Chongprengh, and a 60-year-old woman named Makoto Reang died due to ‘septicemic shock’. A medical report issued from Dasda Primary Health Centre stated that the baby was suffering from fever for 12 days before being admitted to hospital.

Bru infant

The infant that died due to ‘septicemic shock’.

“My family is at Naisingpara. My grandmother died due to starvation. We have no medical facilities, no money to go to hospital. I also happen to know the other family who lost their child. How will the mother breastfeed her baby when she has nothing to eat?” said a Bru from Mizoram who is working at a private company in New Delhi. On condition of anonymity, he also revealed that he was denied a government job for being a Bru.

“I am a Bru, and though I can proudly say this in any part of the country, I can’t reveal my identity in Mizoram. I was denied a government job for being a Bru – they asked for my Voter ID card and Aadhaar. They won’t treat a fellow Mizo the same way.”

He also expressed his displeasure at the arrangements made by Mizoram government for thousands of refugees returning home.

“It is like a ‘Gaushala’ (cattle shelter) at Mamit field where they are staying presently. We don’t want to stay separately. The places we had before in Mizoram are no longer there. Since so many years, we continue to be backward and neglected. Visit any Bru village in Kolasib, Lunglei or Mamit district, and you will see how we are living – barefeet, no pucca houses, no roads. Some still live in bamboo huts.”

MBDPF leader R Dawngliana said they have placed “legitimate demands” before the Centre – “we want the head of every family to go to their respective places in Mizoram before the commencement of repatriation, and build their house there. On completion of the house, they would return to take their families from the relief camps in Tripura. No one wants to return as a refugee.”

Among the other demands, MBDPF wants the house construction amount of Rs 1.5 lakh per house to be disbursed in one-two installments besides transferring the economic package of Rs 4 lakh per family to their bank accounts.

“We also want the bifurcated families to stay together at one place, not in scattered areas. Some of our people have been allotted areas in Mizo villages. They want to stay away from Mizo villages for safety and security reasons,” said Dawngliana, stating that a few Bru families have been living outside the northeastern region.

Over 32,000 Bru people had been living in six temporary camps in North Tripura district since 1997 after they were forced to flee ethic violence in Mizoram.

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