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Repatriation of tribal refugees to Mizoram begins

By The Assam Tribune

Agartala/Aizawl, Nov 4 (IANS): The much-awaited repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram has begun even as the uncertainty over the return of all migrants looms large, officials said today.

Out of 41,600 tribal refugees, 175 refugees returned to their homes Wednesday afternoon and 90 people were repatriated today.

"The Mizoram and Tripura governments and Union Home Ministry are ready to repatriate all the tribal refugees at the earliest," Mizoram government home department Under Secretary David Lalthangliana told IANS on phone.

"Majority of the tribal refugees are willing to come to their homes in Mizoram, but a section of leaders are misguiding the innocent migrants for their narrow personal interest," he said.

Since October 1997, over 41,600 Reang tribal refugees, locally called Bru, have taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura's Kanchanpur sub-division, adjacent to Mizoram. They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

"If the refugees are keen to come to their homeland, the Mizoram government with the help of Tripura administration would take back the refugees in a phased manner," Lalthangliana added.

The tribal refugees organised a protest rally last month to express their distress over the Mizoram government's apathetic attitude to taking back the migrants. They also sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding early solution of the ethnic imbroglio.

During his visit to Aizawl in May, Home Minister P Chidambaram had asked the Mizoram government and the tribal leaders to help repatriate all Reang tribal refugees to their ancestral villages.

According to Mizoram government officials, the State government would provide Rs.80,000 to each repatriated refugee family for house construction and farming assistance and free rations to the displaced tribals for a period of 12 months, adequate security and financial assistance for their 'jhum' cultivation (slash and burn method of cultivation).

The New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), which has been pressurising the union home ministry to ask the Mizoram government to take back the refugees at the earliest, welcomed the resumption of the repatriation of internally displaced persons to Mizoram.

"The Mizoram government should fully implement the rehabilitation package as being provided by the central government to ensure that the repatriation process could be completed without any hindrance," ACHR director Suhas Chakma said in a statement.

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