The eastern zonal bench of the NGT based in Kolkata issued the notices and asked the principal secretary of the state forest department, the district magistrate of North Tripura district and other officials to submit a report on the rehabilitation plan by July 14, which is the next date of hearing.
The petition was filed by environmentalist Dhanishwar Debnath, who contended that the area where the Bru people would be resettled is forest land and is therefore a violation under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
The Centre and Tripura government had rolled out a Rs 1,200 crore scheme to rehabilitate the Bru, or Reang tribals, within Tripura. This came after an agreement on January 16 last year between the central government, the state government, the Mizoram state government and a representative of the ‘Bru’ community residing at a refugee camp in Tripura. Around 13 locations were selected for the purpose.
Debnath said in the petition that the ‘Bru’ community originally belonged to Mizoram and had been displaced due to internecine troubles with the local Mizos.
He contended that the government had invited e-tenders for constructions within a forested area for resettlement. This area, the applicant said, comprises more than 250 hectares under green cover and is in violation of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Hearing the plea, the tribunal said the matter requires consideration and asked the concerned respondents to file their counter-affidavits by the next date of listing.
As per the resettlement agreement signed in New Delhi last year, all the Brus who refused to return to Mizoram and chose to remain in Tripura were allowed to do so. They were to be provided with rehabilitation packages similar to those who had returned to Mizoram during the government-sponsored repatriation process.
Thousands of Bru refugees from Mizoram stayed on in Tripura following ethnic clashes in 1997.