Bru refugees in Dasda town of Tripura have claimed that the death of an infant and a 60-year-old woman at a camp took place due to starvation after they stopped getting ration supplies, The Indian Express reported on Friday. However, the state government disputed the claim, saying that the infant died at a local Primary Health Centre due to an unidentified disease.

Over 32,000 Bru refugees live in six relief camps in Tripura since 1997. That year, 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. The Tripura government has planned to repatriate all Bru refugees to Mizoram by the end of this year.

On October 1, ration supplies and cash doles to the refugees were stopped under instructions from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the Hindustan Times reported. The ninth phase of repatriation began on October 3.

“A two-month-old child and a 60-year-old woman have died while ration supplies were stopped in the camps,” Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum General Secretary Bruno Msha told The Indian Express. “While the baby’s family had eight members, only three got ration when supplies last came a month back.”

He added that the mother did not have milk to feed her child, or money to purchase medicines, since cash doles had been stopped. “We feel the child died due to shortage of food,” Msha said. “An old woman died due to the same condition in the camp.”

However, Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abhedananda Baidya said that the infant was treated at Dasda Primary Health Centre before his death on October 31. The medical authorities said the child died due to an unidentified disease.

The Bru refugees began a road blockade from Thursday to protest the stoppage of rations and cash. On Friday, the refugees blocked the road leading from Dasda town to Anandanagar in North Tripura, which connects Dasda, Bhandarima and Anandanagar towns and adjoining areas with the rest of the state. However, ambulance and fire services have been allowed to ply.

Police personnel have been deployed along the route of the blockade. The Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Forum had submitted a memorandum to Baidya on October 29 announcing their road blockade for an indefinite period from Thursday, if their demands for rations were not met. Earlier, the refugees had threatened to loot warehouses.

Around 7,000 Bru refugees have returned to Mizoram in nine phases of repatriation, including 700 in the ninth phase that began on October 3. However, many refugees have returned, alleging poor living conditions in Mizoram. The repatriation process is scheduled to end on November 3.

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