Aizawl, April 4 (IANS) Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram arrived here Wednesday for discussions on resuming the repatriation of 36,000 Reang refugees who have been staying for the past 15 years in camps in Tripura after being displaced from their villages in Mizoram.
"The home minister, during his two-day stay in Mizoram, would hold meetings with Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, senior officials and Reang leaders to finalise the modalities for repatriation of the migrants," a Mizoram government official told reporters.
According to the official, the home minister is scheduled to visit Tuipuibari, Damdiai and other Reang-dominated villages in Mamit district in western Mizoram Thursday to see for himself the rehabilitation of Reangs who had repatriated last year from Tripura.
Accompanied by a high-level home ministry team, Chidambaram is likely to ask the Congress-led Mizoram government to resolve the ethnic imbroglio and take back all the refugees from Tripura camps and rehabilitate them in Mizoram.
"If the refugees are keen to come to their homeland, the Mizoram government, with the help of Tripura administration, would take back the refugees in a phased manner," the official told reporters in Aizawl.
The home minister had visited Tripura refugee camps, held meetings with the refugee leaders, Mizoram and Tripura government officials at Kanchanpur in northern Tripura Feb 18.
He also held a meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who had requested Chidambaram to take all out steps to repatriate the refugees to their homes in Mizoram.
"The ministry of DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) had already announced a package for the development of the Reang-dominated areas in Mizoram. The home ministry is also separately providing financial assistance for resettlement and rehabilitation of the tribals," Chidambaram had said during his visit to Tripura.
The DoNER package included development of roads, connectivity, setting up of schools and health centres.
"The long-awaited repatriation of the Reang refugees had resumed April 12 last year, but the process was stopped as most refugees were unwilling to return to their homes without a written assurance from the Mizoram government," a Tripura government official said in Agartala.
Uncertainty is still prevailing over whether all the migrants here would return home, the official added.
Following ethnic tensions in Mizoram, over 41,000 Reang refugees - locally called Bru - had taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura's Kanchanpur sub-division in October 1997.
A total of 701 tribal families - comprising about 3,585 men, women and children - were sent back last year.
The home ministry last year broadened the economic package for homebound refugees following mediation by the New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR).
"Apart from Rs.80,000, cash assistance to each refugee family and free rations for one year, the home ministry will support self-employment schemes to be initiated by the Reang tribals," ACHR director Suhas Chakma told IANS on phone from New Delhi.
"A special development project for western Mizoram, where the Reang refugees are to be resettled, is also under consideration of the state government and the union ministry of DoNER)," Chakma said.
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