Despite stir, repatriation of tribals from Tripura as planned: Official

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Agartala, July 16 (IANS) Despite a hunger strike by a few refugees, the repatriation of Reang tribals from Tripura to Mizoram would start from August 16 as scheduled, an official said on Monday.

Some refugees continued their hunger strike in relief camps in Kanchanpur, about 180 km north of Tripura capital Agartala, for the fifth day on Monday demanding advance payment of a financial assistance announced by the Union Home Ministry.

The agitating refugees are also demanding two-hectares of land after their repatriation to Mizoram.

“Union Home Ministry’s advisor Mahesh Kumar Singla held meetings with the refugee leaders and other officials to finalise the strategy of repatriation,” North Tripura District Magistrate Raval Hamendra Kumar told IANS over phone from the district headquarters, Dharmanagar.

He said during the repatriation, the Tripura government would provide security and logistical support, including transportation, to the refugees.

A Tripura home department official said here on Monday that Union Home Secretary’s Special Secretary (Internal Security) Rina Mitra would on Wednesday meet officials of Tripura and Mizoram governments. Leaders of Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), the apex body of the refugees, would also attend the meeting.

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“The meeting would finalise an action plan for the repatriation,” the official said.

The 32,876 Reang tribals, locally known as “Bru”, have been living in six makeshift camps in north Tripura’s Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions, adjoining Mizoram, for the past 21 years. They had fled their homes in western Mizoram following ethnic strife. The trouble in the state started after a Mizo forest official was killed.

After a series of meetings, the representatives of the Tripura, Mizoram governments, Union Home Ministry officials and the MBDPF signed an agreement on July 3 in New Delhi. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and his Mizoram counterpart Lal Thanhawla were also present in the meeting.

As per the agreement, the refugees, comprising 5,407 families, would start returning to their homes from August 16. The multi-phase repatriation would be completed by September 30.

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After their return, the Reang tribals would be settled in three districts — Kolasib, Lunglei and Mamit — in western Mizoram where they lived.

The agreement has finalised a six-point benefit package for each refugee family. It includes financial aid of Rs 4 lakh; a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000; Rs 1.5 lakh for building a house and free rations for two years.

A monitoring committee headed by Special Secretary (Internal Security) of the Ministry of Home Affairs has been constituted with officials from Tripura and Mizoram and representatives of MBDPF to supervise the repatriation process and the settlement of the refugees.

Tripura Relief and Revenue Department Joint Secretary, Sankar Chakraborty said that around Rs 360 crores have been spent to provide relief and basic services to the refugees since October 1997. The central government has sanctioned the funds.

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

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and top officials of the MHA have visited the refugee camps in north Tripura and Mizoram many times and urged both the Mizoram government and the refugees to end the stalemate over the repatriation.

The Supreme Court had last year directed the MHA and the Mizoram and Tripura governments to jointly work for the return of these tribal refugees.

The Tripura government has been asking the Union government and Mizoram to help repatriate the refugees at the earliest, saying that socio-economic and law-and-order problems had cropped up in the state.

–IANS

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