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Uncertainty looms large over Bru repatriation

Written by: Staff
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Tuipuibari, Tripura-Mizoram border, Oct 26 (UNI) The decade-long predicament over the repatriation of Bru(Reang) refugees from six different camps of north Tripura remains uncertain even after laying down of arms by the Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM).

About 802 BLFM rebels surrendered before Mizoram Home minister Tawnluia in presence of Home ministry officials here today accepting the pre-condition of Mizoram government to take back the refugees from neighbouring state.

According to state government's decision, the administration would inquire into specific documents of the Reang refugees.

Meanwhile, Reang refugees have demanded documents including Census report of 1991, state electoral rolls of 1993 and village council poll rolls of 1997. However, the government did not accept their demand.

Official sources said the repatriation process became critical with allegations from ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) that a sizeable number of refugees sheltered in Tripura camps were not residents of Mizoram but from Tripura and Bangladesh.

The Reangs, the second largest tribal group of Mizoram, had been demanding setting up of an Autonomous District Council (ADC) based on the Sixth Schedule of the (Indian) Constitution in Reang-dominated areas of Southern Mizoram, which was the main reason of the conflict between Mizo and Reangs in the state.

''The demand had been raised under the banner of a new party called 'Reang Democratic Party' (RDP). The majority of the Mizo tribals look down upon the Reang with deep hostility and treat them as 'bonded labourers and 'slaves'', Suryamani Reang, a Reang leader told UNI.

The Reangs, who fled to Mizoram in October 1997, after 'facing intimidation, repression and attacks'. Besides, ten Reangs were killed in September allegedly by Mizo hardliners.

The influx continued unabated, particularly after the murder of a Mizo forest warden, supposedly by the Bru National Liberation Front.

Bru leaders said their cultural practices were being thwarted and they were forced to adopt Mizo names and Mizo languages as their medium of instruction instead of the native Kokborok.

Official sources said despite continuing efforts of the Tripura government, the question of repatriation has made no progress as Mizoram persisted with their stand that all those registered as refugees in the camps did not really belong to Mizoram.

Both the Tripura government and the Centre have been trying to 'push back' all the Reang people to Mizoram.

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil had also announced a rehabilitation package of Rs 28.63 crore for the resettlement of the refugees last year. Even after a series of discussions held by the officials of the Union Home Ministry failed to make any progress.

The then Union Home Minister L K Advani initiated the repatriation move following Tripura government's plea and tripartite meeting in Delhi.

It was resolved that the government of Mizoram would start taking back the refugees from October 2004 but the process remained paralysed.

UNI BB JYN BA SAM BST1302

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