The plan to rehabilitate 36,140 tribal migrants, who had fled Mizoram 24 years ago, following ethnic strife, received a jolt after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) accepted a complaint filed against their resettlement in Tripura’s forest areas.
The Centre and the Tripura government have undertaken a Rs 1,200 crore ambitious project to rehabilitate 36,140 tribal immigrants in 13 locations across different districts of Tripura.
Environmentalists, experts and Dhanishwar Debnath, who filed the petition in the NGT, have been saying that they are not against the rehabilitation of the tribal migrants but they are against deforestation and adverse effect on forest and environment.
The NGT has sought replies from the Forest department and North Tripura district administration on a complaint filed by Debnath that the migrant tribals from adjoining Mizoram were being resettled in forest land of Tripura.
The Kolkata-based eastern zonal bench of the NGT directed the Principal Secretary of Tripura’s Forest Department, the District Magistrate of North Tripura district and other officials to submit a report on the rehabilitation plan by July 14.
Debnath, General Secretary of a local club, in his petition referred to an e-tender floated by the Tripura government on November 4, 2020, seeking “certain constructions within a forest area” in North Tripura district.
He said that according to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, if certain areas were deforested, the concerned authorities must have afforested those areas by new plantations but there is no such additional lands in most districts for the fresh plantations.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dvijendra Kumar Sharma while talking to IANS said that they are aware about the order of the NGT and they would respond in due course of time.
Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who recently visited Dhalai district to supervise the arrangements of the resettlement of the tribal migrants, had said that the Tripura government has selected 13 locations in different districts to rehabilitate the internally displaced Reang tribes, locally called “Bru”.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah have taken bold steps to resolve the 24-year-old ethnic crisis of the Reang tribes,” said the Chief Minister.
He said that the Prime Minister has already announced a Rs 600 crore package for the resettlement of these tribal migrants in Tripura.
According to the agreement signed in January last year by the Chief Secretaries of Mizoram, Tripura, Union Ministry of Home Affairs Joint Secretary Satyendra Garg and the representatives of the refugees in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah, 36,140 tribals from around 5,400 families of the Reang tribal community would be resettled in different districts of Tripura.
Since October 1997, the Reang tribals have been sheltered in northern Tripura’s seven relief camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions.
The resettlement of the first batch of around 890 Reang tribals had started on April 19, more than 15 months after a four-partite agreement was signed in Delhi.
Dhalai District Magistrate and Collector Govekar Mayur Ratilal said that the tribals would now temporarily stay in the newly built makeshift houses in Ambassa and Longtharai Valley sub-divisions before their permanent resettlement.
“The concerned departments have arranged water, electricity and other basic amenities for the tribals,” the DM told IANS over phone.
The agreement came after the Tripura Chief Minister in November 2019 agreed to accept the 36,140 tribal refugees and rehabilitate them in the state.
The Reang tribals would also be included as voters in Tripura as maintained in the agreement, which was signed on January 16 last year.
The Centre has announced a Rs 600 crore package for the settlement of the Reang tribals, recognised as a primitive tribe in Tripura.
Of the package, Rs 150 lakh will be earmarked to the Tripura government for land acquisition and the rest would be spent on the welfare of these tribals.
A series of violent agitations against the resettlement of the Reang tribals in northern Tripura was witnessed in November last year.
The agitations in Kanchanpur and Panisagar, both North Tripura districts adjoining Mizoram, caused two deaths — fire-fighter Biswajit Debbarma (41) and agitator Srikanta Das (45) — besides injuring 32 others, including security personnel, fire-fighters and protesters besides damaging many police and private vehicles.
The Joint Movement Committee (JMC), comprising two organisations — Nagarik Suraksha Mancha (Citizen Protection Forum) and Mizo Convention, both representing the non-tribals and Lusai tribals, had spearheaded the agitations opposing the resettlement of the internally displaced Reang tribals in Kanchanpur sub-division.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])