Mizoram to take back displaced Reang tribals

May 3rd, 2009 - 4:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Aizawl, May 3 (IANS) The Mizoram government has agreed to take back nearly 35,000 Reang tribals living in refugee camps in Tripura for the past 12 years, officials said Sunday.
An eight-member delegation of the refugees and former militant leaders held a series of meeting with Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla and top central state government officials here for the past two days to resolve the impasse.

“The chief minister has firmly assured the delegation that Mizoram will take back genuine residents of the state rehabilitate them in the southern part of the mountainous state,” said Elvis Chorkhy, president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF).

Over 35,000 people, including 12,000 children, belonging to primitive Reang tribe are living in six relief camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos in Christian-dominated Mizoram. The Reangs are mostly Hindus.

“The chief minister, chief secretary and central government officials for the first time have categorically said that the refugees will be taken back and rehabilitated,” Chorkhy told IANS.

Mizoram Chief Secretary Vanhela Pachuau said: “Before the repatriation of tribal refugees, a verification process would be undertake later this month in the camps to identify the genuine residents of Mizoram.”

“The state government is sincere to resolve genuine demands of all ethnic groups in the state,” Pachuau told reporters here.

Chorkhy said: “The government has also assured the delegation about the restoration of tribals’ lands and reinstatement of those refugees forced to leave their government jobs.”

Chorkhy also said that the government has assured that a compensation of Rs.80,000 will be paid to every refugee family.

Chief Minister Lalthanhawla said: “”We are sympathetic towards all communities and ethnic groups and of course we shall look into the genuine problems of the Reangs too.”

The previous Mizoram government ruled by the Mizo National Front (MNF) was reluctant to take back the Reang refugees, also known as ‘Bru’, prompting them to organise a series of agitations, including hunger strikes.

A week-long hunger strike organised last year in Tripura was withdrawn following assurances by the union home ministry to fulfil the 16-point charter of demands, including repatriation to their home state.

“But unfortunately nothing was done to settle our problems. The inmates are asking how long they would remain refugees in their own country,” Chorkhy said.

In 2005, after 14 rounds of talks the Mizoram government and the militant Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) signed an agreement to resolve the ethnic crisis, leading to the surrender of about 1,040 militants belonging to the BNLF and Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram.

Both the outfits had been fighting to set up an autonomous council in Mizoram for the Reang tribals. The refugee problem had led to socio-economic unrest in Tripura.

“Due to the stay of the tribal refugees since October 1997, Tripura is facing serious socio-economic problems,” said Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.

Following the persistent demands of the Tripura government and the refugees, union home ministry’s Border Management Secretary Vinoy Kumar and joint secretary in-charge of northeast Navin Verma rushed to Mizoram and held meetings with the state government officials and tribal leaders to remove the stalemate.

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