Top officials urge Reang tribal refugees in Tripura to return home

Agartala/Aizawl : Officials of the Centre and two state governments on Saturday asked Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in North Tripura district for the last 19 years, to return to their homes in Mizoram and take the benefit of the rehabilitation package.

The next phase of repatriation of 31,300 Reang tribal refugees is likely to resume after the monsoon in November.

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“Union Home Ministry officials and top officials of Tripura and Mizoram governments in a meeting on Saturday with the leaders of the Reang tribal refugees have asked them to return to their homes in Mizoram and take the benefit of the rehabilitation package,” North Tripura district’s Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nantu Ranjan Das told IANS over the phone.

He said: “Union Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary in charge of the northeast Satyendra Garg very sincerely requested the refugees to go home as per the road map finalised by the Mizoram government. After their return the demands of the refugees would be fulfilled.”

Das said that the Mizoram government officials told the meeting that they would make all arrangements to take back the refugees after the monsoon in November.

Garg, who arrived in Agartala on Friday from New Delhi, told the meeting that he would visit Mizoram next week to personally see the situation in Mamit district and adjoining areas where the refugees would be rehabilitated after their repatriation.

The crucial meeting, which took place in Kanchanpur in North Tripura, came amid the Supreme Court’s directives favouring repatriation of the refugees and the Mizoram government submitting a proposal to the central government on how it plans to rehabilitate the displaced people.

Garg told reporters in Agartala that the Supreme Court had asked the Union Home Ministry and the Mizoram and Tripura governments to jointly work for the return of the tribal refugees to their homes in Mizoram.

The Mizoram government was represented in the meeting by Principal Secretary (Home) Renu Sharma, other home department officials and Deputy Commissioner (Mamit district) Lalbiaksangi.

The Tripura government was represented by District Magistrate (North Tripura) Sandeep Mahatame, Superintendent of Police Manik Lal Das and Sub-Divisional Magistrate (Kanchanpur) Nantu Ranjan Das.

About 31,300 Reang tribals, who call themselves ‘Bru’, have been living in seven makeshift camps in North Tripura’s Kanchanpur areas adjoining Mizoram since October 1997.

They had fled ethnic violence in western Mizoram following the killing of a Mizo forest officer at the Dampa Tiger Reserve.

Despite several initiatives by the Mizoram government to bring them back, the refugees have been reluctant to go back to their villages unless their demands for food and security are met.

Mizoram’s Additional Secretary (home) Lalbiakzama said in Aizawl that the state government submitted to the Union Home Ministry last month a detailed plan for taking back the tribal refugees.

“After the union home ministry approves the roadmap, a fresh initiative would be undertaken to bring back the Reang tribal refugees to their villages in Mizoram,” he said.

The Mizoram government has sought Rs 68 crore from the central government to rehabilitate the tribals, Lalbiakzama said.

Several Mizo organisations, including the powerful Young Mizo Association, have demanded deletion of names from the voter list of those tribals who are unwilling to come back to the state.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla also supported this demand.

Meanwhile, there was violence last month in Kanchanpur areas after a refugee Bhriguram Reang, 36, was beaten up by local people who accused him of catching fish from a pond without seeking permission from the owner.

The youth reportedly committed suicide later.

Angry tribal refugees burnt and damaged about 22 houses of local residents.

The Tripura government has been asking the Centre and Mizoram governments to repatriate the refugees at the earliest as serious socio-economic and law and order problems have cropped up in the state.

Refugee leader Bruno Msha said the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) has been demanding financial assistance of Rs 150,000 per repatriated family, free rations for every repatriated family for two years, providing cultivable land, a political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security.

“We have, on a number of occasions, told the central and Mizoram governments that the refugees are willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10-point demands, including security and rehabilitation, are met,” he added.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh accompanied by his deputy Kiren Rijiju had visited the refugee camps in North Tripura in February last year and urged the Mizoram government and the refugees to end the stalemate.