Kanchanpur (Tripura), April 26 (IANS) The much-awaited repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram did not start Thursday as the inmates are unwilling to return to their villages without a written agreement and arrangements for their security, officials here said.
'The Tripura government on the request of its Mizoram counterpart has arranged 72 vehicles to carry the tribal refugees to their villages under Mamit district in western Mizoram,' Tripura government's Revenue Secretary Swapan Saha told IANS.
'Tripura and Mizoram government officials have been trying to persuade the refugees to go to their homes in Mizoram. The persuasion continued till late Thursday night, but the refugees were adamant not to go home unless their 18-point charter of demands were fulfilled by Mizoram and the central government,' he said.
The demands include a written agreement between Mizoram, Tripura and the Central government and refugee leaders, ensuring of the livelihood of the Reang tribals in that Mizoram, constitution of monitoring committee to supervise the settlement of home-bound refugees, sheltered in Tripura for the past 15 years.
Another Tripura government official told reporters that the agitated refugees, including women, destroyed the transit camps at Kanchanpur, set up for the repatriation of evacuees and assaulted officials Wednesday night.
'A total of 669 tribal families comprising about 3,655 men, women and children are scheduled to be sent back in five phases from Thursday,' North Tripura District Magistrate Parshanta Kumar told IANS by phone.
As per the union home ministry's advice by May 15, the tribal refugees would have to be repatriated to their villages under Mamit district in western Mizoram.
A Tripura official said: 'A team of Mizoram officials has been camping in Kanchanpur in north Tripura since Tuesday 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.'
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 P.U. Lalthanwala.
Refugee leaders have been insisting that without signing an agreement between them, Mizoram, Tripura and the central government, post-repatriation activities and works, including rehabilitation of the refugees, will remain uncertain.
Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) president A. Sawibunga said: 'We would not create any impediment in the repatriation process, but a large number of common refugees are not fully influenced by the verbal assurance of the central and Mizoram governments.'
The refugees, lodged in six camps in northern Tripura, 180 km north of Agartala, have occasionally organised protest rallies.
'The long-awaited repatriation of Reang refugees had resumed April 12 last year, but the process was stopped as most refugees were unwilling to return homes without a written assurance from the Mizoram government,' a Tripura government official said in Agartala.
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