Mizoram Home Secretary Lalbiakzama said on Monday that state officials have re-identified 26,128 Bru refugees belonging to 4,278 families staying in six relief camps in North Tripura district, PTI reported. The re-identification, as part of the repatriation process of the Bru refugees, was completed on July 20, he said.

However, Lalbiakzama said that the figure was not final, as scrutiny would be held after a meeting with the officials who returned from Tripura. Officials from Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram conducted the re-identification, Lalbiakzama said.

In the previous head count conducted in November, 32,876 Brus belonging to 5,407 families were found in the relief camps in Tripura. In July 2018, the Mizoram and Tripura governments, the Centre and the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum agreed that the 5,407 families would be repatriated to Mizoram before September 30, 2018. Of these, only 33 families returned to Mizoram in 2018, the home secretary said.

The Tripura government wants to repatriate all remaining Bru refugees to Mizoram this year, Lalbiakzama said. “It will depend on the weather, and of course the preparedness of the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as Tripura government, as coordinated efforts of all the stake- holders are crucial,” he said. The home secretary added that all refugee families want to return home, but opposition by hardliners and anti-repatriation elements cannot be ruled out.

In 1997, the murder of a Mizo forest guard in the Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram’s Mamit district allegedly by Bru militants led to a violent backlash against the community, forcing about 37,000 people to flee to neighbouring Tripura.