Reang tribal refugees to be repatriated to Mizoram

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Agartala/Aizawl : The Tripura and Mizoram governments along with the Centre are making arrangements for the repatriation of 32,876 tribal refugees to Mizoram starting next week, officials said on Tuesday.

"A meeting of Central, Mizoram and Tripura government officials would be held on Thursday at Damchanra (in northern Tripura) to finalise a 'road map' to repatriate the Reang tribal refugees to Mizoram immediately after Independence Day," Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Sajal Biswas told IANS.

"District Magistrates of three Mizoram districts (Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib), north Tripura districts and a joint secretary level officer of the Union Home Ministry would attend the meeting to decide the strategies," he added.

After a series of meetings, an agreement to repatriate the tribals and look to their settlement was signed on July 3 in New Delhi.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and his Mizoram counterpart Lal Thanhawla along with officials of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) were present during the signing.

As per the agreement, the tribals, comprising 5,407 families, would start returning to their homes from August 16 or 17. The multi-phase repatriation process would be completed by September 30.

The agreement also finalised a six-point benefit package for each family.

However, two weeks after the signing, refugee leaders said the tribals were unwilling to return unless their old demands, including the formation of an Area Development Council, were met.

The MBDPF is the apex organisation of the refugees, locally known as "Bru", who have been living in six makeshift camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions adjoining Mizoram, for the past 21 years.

The tribals fled their homes in October 1997 after a Mizo forest official was killed.

Meanwhile, Communist Party of India-Marxist Lok Sabha Chief Whip Jitendra Chowdhury urged the Centre not to repatriate the refugees without settlement of the land and other issues.

"Without settling the basic and genuine issues of the tribals including land, livelihood and security, the refugees should not be repatriated. I raised the issue in Lok Sabha last week. But the government is yet to respond," Chowdhury told IANS on Tuesday over phone from Delhi.