The Supreme Court of India on Monday directed the Centre to explain within two weeks why it has stopped supplying rations to relief camps of Bru refugees in Tripura, causing starvation deaths in one such shelter, ANI reported.
“Take instructions and tell us in two weeks,” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told the Centre. “Don’t do this, whatever is the reason. Don’t let people die in this manner.”
Last month, it was reported that six of the internally displaced people in the camps had died of starvation since ration supplies were stopped on October 1. Supreme Court advocate Ali Zia Kabir Choudhary then issued a legal notice to six officials of the Tripura government.
More than 32,000 Bru refugees have been living in six relief camps in Tripura since 1997 after they were forced to flee ethnic violence in Mizoram. The Tripura government planned to repatriate all the refugees to Mizoram by the end of the year, and the ninth phase of repatriation began on October 3. However, the refugees started a road blockade between Dasda town and Anandanagar in North Tripura on October 31 in protest against the Centre’s decision to stop food and cash benefits as some of them refused to return to Mizoram.
Meanwhile, political parties in Mizoram said Bru families who have refused to return to the state should be allowed to stay in Tripura. “Of the 21 recognised tribes in Tripura, the Brus are the second-most populous,” Mizo National Front leader Lalhming Liana said last month. “This reaffirms that they are originally from Tripura.” He added that Bru refugees were not foreigners but internally displaced Indians, and have a “fundamental right” to live in Tripura.