Apex Court Lashes Out at Govt For Deplorable Conditions of Bru Refugees
Brus or Reangs
NEW DELHI: Lambasting the Centre, the Supreme Court on Friday arraigned it for the deplorable conditions in which thousands of Brus or the Reangs of Mizoram have been staying in the relief camps in North Tripura after ethnic violence compelled them to leave their villages in Mizoram.
"Is this the way how people are being treated? Do you think that people would survive on these support provided by you. Tomorrow, you will throw them in the gutter. Have human beings in the country no dignity? It is highly objectionable," a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit said while terming the affidavit filed by the Centre as “disturbing” which described the conditions of the camps and the support materials provided to them.
The Bru refugees, around 35,000 in numbers, living in a total of six relief camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions in North Tripura are given only one pair of clothing, one bathing soap and one pair of chappal per year along with food grains.
Additionally, the Central govt affidavit also stated that it was supporting the tribes by giving a cash dole of Rs 5 per day for adults and Rs 2.50 per day for minors.
The shocked apex court lashed out at the Centre for the inhumane conditions at which these refugees have been living in the camps for 17 years since they fled their homes in Mizoram in October 1997 following ethnic clashes.
“You give them just one soap for the entire year? Then, one T-shirt and one pant piece for the whole year. Is one soap enough for the whole year? Is there no dignity left to spare for human beings in this country?” Justice Lokur asked the government.
In response, representing the Centre, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P L Narasimha, apologized for the statement in the government affidavit and withdrew it.
This observation came while hearing public interest litigations (PILs) filed in 2005 by Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and another in 2007 by Asian Indigenous & Tribal People's, both voluntary organisation working for the welfare of the tribals.
Interestingly, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in the affidavit also said that it had released about Rs 231 crores to Tripura government and Rs 35 crores to Mizoram government as grant-in-aid for the refugees.
Responding, the Supreme Court stated that if the number was worked out for the 17 years duration, it would come to an amount less than one lakh rupee per refugee per year.
Another note filed in the affidavit submitted by the Centre which came into light and was severely criticised read “It may not be conducive to take measures which would encourage the Bru refugees to develop a stronger attachment to the refugee camp life rather than go back to Mizoram. Efforts on creating additional facilities in the camp life would only incentivise the Brus to their camp life in Tripura and shift the focus away from rehabilitation.”
Denouncing this note, Justice Lokur observed “This is highly objectionable. How can you say that you will not give them basic necessities because you feel they will continue to stay there (relief camps)?”
The embarrassing ASG again had to issue an apology.
Justice Lokur further told the ASG “You cannot say you have done everything and throw up your hands”.
The apex court has directed the Centre, in consultation with the two states, to file a proper affidavit in four weeks giving a time-bound action plan for the rehabilitation of the Reangs.
It further said that the plan should not be "unilateral", adding that all the stakeholders including the chief secretaries of the two states must be consulted.
The next date of hearing in the case is February 27.