AGARTALA/AIZAWL, Feb 3 (IANS) - The Tripura government has again asked the central government to take steps to send back to Mizoram Reang tribal refugees, who have been in the state for 14 years. The Mizoram government, on its part, cites non-availability of funds from New Delhi.
The issue was brought up again when Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar visited New Delhi for the conference on internal security Tuesday and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
"He requested the prime minister and home minister to ask the Mizoram government to take back the refugees," a senior Tripura government official told reporters in Agartala Thursday.
"The presence of over 34,000 tribal refugees for more than 14 years has been a matter of concern. The long presence of these Reang tribals creates serious financial, social and law and order related problems," the official said, quoting the chief minister.
The Reang tribals, locally called Bru, have been living in six camps in north Tripura's Kanchanpur sub-division since 1997. They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos following the killing of a Mizo forest official.
The Mizoram government says it has its own problems.
"The process of repatriation of the refugees could not be started by the Mizoram government due to non-availability of funds from the centre," a Mizoram home department official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
The Union Home Ministry had sanctioned funds for the repatriation and resettlement of the refugees in their villages in Mamit district of western Mizoram, but the central grant was yet to be released to the state government, he said.
"The state and district officials have completed the identification process in the relief camps in Tripura but we could not proceed with the repatriation process due to non-availability of funds for the purpose," the official stated.
He added that the Mizoram government would push back the refugees to Tripura if they failed to prove they were bona fide residents of Mizoram.
The home ministry last month broadened the economic package for homebound refugees following mediation by the New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR).
ACHR director Suhas Chakma told IANS on phone from New Delhi: "Apart from Rs.80,000 cash 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."
A special development project for the western region of Mizoram where the Reang refugees are to be resettled is also under consideration of the Mizoram government and the development of north eastern region (DoNER) ministry, Chakma said.