AGARTALA, Feb 18 (IANS): Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram Saturday urged the nearly 37,000 tribal refugees from Mizoram, sheltered in six north Tripura camps for the past 15 years, to return to their homes in the neighbouring state.
"You have to go to your homes and villages first, then you would get the rehabilitation package," Chidambaram told the refugees and their leaders at Kanchanpur, 190 km north of Agartala.
"Both the central and Mizoram governments would take care of your liability as much as possible, but you first go to your villages in Mizoram," he said.
Chidambaram, who came here Saturday, held meetings with the refugee leaders, and Mizoram and Tripura government officials at Kanchanpur in northern Tripura, before holding a meeting with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar here.
The home minister, accompanied by (home) ministry officials and officials of the Mizoram and Tripura governments, visited the refugee camps, where about 37,000 inmates, including 6,000 children, have been lodged.
Home ministry's Joint Secretary Sambhu Singh held a series of meetings Friday and Saturday with Tripura and Mizoram government officials.
The Mizoram officials, led by Home Secretary K. Riachho said at the meetings that the state government was ready to take back all the Reang tribal refugees if the 83 Mizo families, who according to them had been evicted by the Reangs from north Tripura in 1983, were provided rehabilitation package.
Though the Tripura government officials opposed the Mizoram government's allegation, the home ministry officials agreed to provide financial support to the Mizo families.
Following ethnic tensions sparked by the killing of a Mizo forest official in Mizoram, over 41,000 Reang tribal refugees -- locally called Bru -- had taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura's Kanchanpur sub-division in October 1997.
After a series of meetings, 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 home-bound refugees following mediation by the New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR).
"Apart from Rs.80,000 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.