Agartala/Aizawl, June 4 (IANS) Officials of the Centre and two state governments on Saturday met Reang tribal refugees, who have been sheltered in North Tripura district for the last 19 years, to persuade them to return to their homes in Mizoram.
The meeting, which took place in Kanchanpur in North Tripura, came amid Supreme Court’s directives favouring repatriation of the refugees and the Mizoram government submitting a proposal to the central government onhow it plans to rehabilitate the displaced people.
The Union Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary in charge of the northeast, Satyendra Garg, who arrived in Agartala on Friday, asked the refugees to return to their homes and lead a normal life.
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 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 government 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.