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Mizoram's fresh initiative to take back tribal refugees from Tripura

By The Assam Tribune

Aizawl/Agartala, May 23 (IANS): The Mizoram Government has taken a fresh initiative to take back the tribal refugees sheltered in seven North Tripura camps for the last 19 years, officials said here on Monday.

"The Mizoram Government has submitted to the Union Home Ministry last week a detailed plan for repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram," Lalbiakzama, who is Additional Secretary in Mizoram's Home Department, said in Aizawl. "After the Union Home Ministry approves the roadmap, a fresh initiative would be undertaken to bring back the Reang tribal refugees to their villages in western Mizoram," he said.

The State Government has sought Rs 68 crore from the Central Government to rehabilitate the tribals, Lalbiakzama said.

About 31,300 Reang tribals, who call themselves "Bru", have been living in seven makeshift camps in northern Tripura's Kanchanpur areas adjoining Mizoram since October 1997. They had fled ethnic violence in Mizoram following the killing of a Mizo forest officer at the Dampa Tiger Reserve.

Several Mizo organisations, including powerful Young Mizo Association, have demanded deletion of names from the voter list of those tribals who are unwilling to come back to the State. Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla also supported this demand.

Meanwhile, there was violence last week in Tripura's Kanchanpur areas after a refugee, Bhriguram Reang, 36, was beaten up by local people who accused him of catching fish from a pond without seeking permission from the owner. He reportedly committed suicide later.

Angry tribal refugees burnt and damaged about 22 houses of local residents.

On the directives of the Supreme Court and the Union Home Ministry, the Mizoram Government has taken several initiatives to take back the refugees, but they were reluctant to go back to their villages unless their demands for food and security were met.

The Tripura Government has been asking the Centre and Mizoram government to repatriate the refugees at the earliest as serious socio-economic and law and order problems have cropped up in the State.

Refugee leader Bruno Msha said the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) has been demanding financial assistance of Rs 1,50,000 per repatriated family, free rations for every repatriated family for two years, providing cultivable land, a political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security.

"We have, on a number of occasions, told the Central and Mizoram governments that the refugees are willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10-point demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met," he added.

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