Tripura starts sending Mizoram refugees back home

Tripura sends Mizoram refugees back home
Agartala/Aizawl, Oct 1: Tripura started sending the Reang tribal refugees back to neighbouring Mizoram Monday after a two-year break, but officials said it was uncertain if all migrant families would return to their homes.

According to the refugees' leaders, a majority of them are unwilling to go back to their homes and villages in Mizoram unless the Mizoram government meets their demands.

"In all, 561 refugees comprising 84 families returned to their home state Mizoram Monday afternoon. The Tripura government officials provided logistical support in the repatriation process," north Tripura's Kanchanpur Deputy Collector Anupam Bhattacharjee told IANS over phone.

The tribal refugees fled their villages in Mizoram in October 1997 after clashes

He said: "As per the meeting between the officials of Mizoram and Tripura governments Sep 17 at Kanchanpur, 121 families were supposed to go to their homes, but only 84 families returned till Monday afternoon. We are not aware when the remaining refugees would go back to their state."

"The repatriation of the tribal refugees living in six Tripura camps for the past 16 years, resumed after two years, following continued pressure from the Tripura government on the Mizoram and central governments," Tripura's Revenue and Relief Department Secretary Swapan Saha told reporters in Agartala.

Saha said the union home ministry recently asked the Mizoram government to take back all the 37,000 tribal refugees, locally called Bru, living in six makeshift camps in Kanchanpur sub-division of north Tripura, 180 km north of Agartala.

He said: "In a separate letter, Tripura Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda requested his Mizoram counterpart L. Tochhong to take suitable steps so that refugees could go back home."

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who also holds the home portfolio, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in New Delhi in July and told them that "continuous presence for over 16 years of refugees from Mizoram has been a matter of concern for Tripura".

"The long stay has its own socio-economic and law and order problems. The state government is providing necessary support for early repatriation of these families. However, the process has been extremely slow," said Sarkar.

The refugees have been insisting that without a formal agreement between the central government, the state governments of Mizoram and Tripura, and also the tribal leaders, their return and rehabilitation will remain uncertain.

The leaders of the refugees have sent several memoranda to the prime minister and the union home ministerto press their seven-point charter of demands.

Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) president A. Sawibunga told IANS over phone: "We have been demanding adequate safety and security of the returning refugees, free rations for two years and Rs.1.50 lakh in financial assistance to construct houses, and to restart cultivation, allotment of lands to all the returning families."

He said that the Mizoram government though received over Rs.85 crore for the rehabilitation of the refugees, it sanctioned only Rs.80,000 for the construction of houses and cultivation, and one year's free ration instead of for two years.

The Mizoram government officials in Aizawl said that a majority of the refugees are keen to return to their homes, but a section of refugee leaders are misguiding them to stay back in Tripura.

The tribal refugees fled their villages in Mizoram in October 1997 after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

In the past, around 4,500 refugees returned in 2010 and 2011 following continued persuasion by Mizoram, Tripura and union home ministry officials. However, the process got stalled after that.


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