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Refugees' return from Tripura to Mizoram a non-starter

By The Assam Tribune

AGARTALA/AIZAWL, May 11 (IANS) - The much-awaited repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram did not start today as the authorities did not arrange transport and security for them, a refugee leader said.

"The refugees were ready to return, but the Mizoram government did not arrange any vehicle and security for them," refugee leader Elvis Chorkhy told reporters.

"We have sent letters (through fax) to top officials of Mizoram government and told them that without security and vehicles how would refugees go to their villages in Mamit district of western Mizoram," said Chorkhy, who is also the president of Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF).

Last week, the Mizoram government informed the Tripura govenment and refugee leaders that it has decided to take back 2,000 tribal refugees who had taken shelter in north Tripura last year.

On Monday, Mizoram Home Secretary Lalmalsawma told reporters in Aizawl: "We have taken steps to repatriate the refugees from Tuesday. The exercise is expected to be completed by May 15."

The official said Mizoram will give Rs 40,000 per refugee family for travelling and construction of home in their villages.

Around 32,000 Reang tribal refugees have taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura, adjacent to Mizoram, since 1997.

They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with Mizos over the killing of a forest official.

The refugees' repatriation from Tripura to Mizoram was stopped in November last year when a mob in western Mizoram burnt down around 700 tribal houses after an 18-year-old Mizo youth was shot dead by unidentified miscreants.

Following the arson and violence, about 5,500 displaced Reang tribals took shelter in adjacent Tripura.

"I have met the refugee leaders and informed them about the Mizoram government's willingness to take back around 2,000 newly displaced tribal refugees," north Tripura's Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Dilip Chakma said Monday.

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