Repatriation of refugees from Tripura to Mizoram uncertain

February 1st, 2009 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, Feb 1 (IANS) The repatriation of 35,000 Reang tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram hangs in balance with the new Mizoram government yet to take any decision on resolving the ethnic problem in the state. Over 35,000 people, including 12,000 children, belonging to the Reang tribe are living in six relief camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos in Mizoram. The Reangs are mostly Hindus.

“Despite repeated appeals, the Mizoram government is yet to take any decision about the long-awaited repatriation of the hapless tribal people,” said Elvis Chorkhy, president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF).

The MBDPF in separate letters last week to Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Tripura Governor Dinesh Nandan Sahaya explained their miseries and requested immediate resettlement of the refugees in Mizoram.

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

A delegation of MBDPF will meet Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana Feb 5 in Aizawl to discuss the repatriation issue.

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.

The week-long hunger strike organised last year in Tripura was withdrawn following assurances by the union home ministry to fulfil their 16-point charter of demands, including repatriation to their home state.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

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

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.

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