Reang refugee repatriation from Tripura to Mizoram begins
Agartala/Aizawl, May 4 (IANS) The long-awaited repatriation of Reang tribal refugees from Tripura to neighbouring Mizoram began Friday but there is uncertainty over whether all the migrants will return home, officials here said.
The repatriation of the Reangs, sheltered in six Tripura camps for the past 15 years, ran into rough weather Friday itself, with the majority of inmates declining to return to their homes in Mizoram 'unless they got written promises of their safety, security and livelihood'.
'On the request of Mizoram, the Tripura government had arranged 22 vehicles to carry around 600 Reang refugees to their villages in western Mizoram's Mamit district. But most refugees were reluctant to go to their homes before getting written guarantees from Mizoram,' Sandeep R. Rathore, sub-divisional magistrate of Kanchanpur in north Tripura told IANS by phone.
'Of the scheduled 600 refugees, only 37 went to their villages in Mizoram Friday after a lot of day-long persuasion by the Tripura and Mizoram government officials,' Rathore said.
He added: 'The refugees are adamant not to go back home unless their 18-point charter of demands are fulfilled by the Mizoram and the central governments.'
The demands include a written agreement between Mizoram, Tripura and the central government and refugee leaders, ensuring the livelihood of Reang tribals in Mizoram and the constitution of a monitoring committee to supervise the settlement of home-bound refugees, sheltered in Tripura for the past 15 years.
A Tripura government official said: 'A team of Mizoram government officials led by Koarta sub-divisional magistrate Benzamin Lalzama has been camping in Kanchanpur since Wednesday to take back the refugees. They also held meetings with Tripura's district officials. The Tripura government would provide all logistical support for the purpose.'
The repatriation of the next batch of refugees to Mizoram is scheduled May 8.
'A total of 669 tribal families comprising about 3,655 men, women and children are scheduled to be sent back in five phases from April 26,' North Tripura district magistrate Parshanta Kumar told IANS by phone.
Meanwhile, Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana said in Aizawl that preparations to receive the Reang tribal refugees have been made by the Mamit district administration.
'We want all the genuine residents of Mizoram to return. The state government and the people of Mizoram would welcome them,' Lalzirliana told reporters.
The minister regretted that influenced by some anti-repatriation leaders, the refugees were not willing to return to Mizoram and created problems by making lame excuses.
Since October 1997, over 41,000 Reang tribal refugees, locally called Bru, have taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura's Kanchanpur sub-division, adjacent to western Mizoram. They fled their villages after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.
The stalled repatriation process got a boost after union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's visit to Tripura and Mizoram recently and a series of meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla.
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