Refugees from Mizoram threaten to boycott assembly polls

August 28th, 2008 - 12:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, Aug 28 (IANS) Refugees from Mizoram camping in Tripura have threatened to boycott the assembly election in their state if they are not repatriated to their home soon.Over 31,000 members of the Reang tribe are living in relief camps in Tripura for the past 11 years following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos in Mizoram. The Reangs are a Hindu minority in Christian-majority Mizoram.

“We may boycott the assembly polls as both the central and the Mizoram government are not sincere to solve our decade-old problem, and (have) failed to fulfil their commitment on a number of occasions,” said Elvis Chorkhy, president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF).

Elections to the 40-member Mizoram assembly are due in November this year.

Militant-outfit-turned-political-party, the Mizo National Front (MNF) has been ruling the mountainous state for the past 10 years.

Mizoram is reluctant to take back the Reang refugees, also known as Bru, prompting them to organise a series of agitations over the years.

The week-long hunger strike they organised last year in Tripura was withdrawn following assurances by the home ministry to fulfil their 16-point charter of demands, including repatriation to their home state.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

Union home ministry teams have visited the refugee camps in Tripura and held inconclusive talks with the Mizoram government to resolve the issue.

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 for the Reang refugees.

Demanding immediate four- corner talks between the centre, Mizoram and Tripura governments and MBDPF, the refugee leader said: “These series of events - signing of agreement on surrender of militants - proved futile.”

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,” Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said.

A high-level team comprising officials of the Election Commission and the Mizoram government will visit the north Tripura refugee camps Saturday to examine the eligibility of about 11,000 refugees, whose names are yet to be enrolled in the Mizoram electoral list despite their becoming 18 years old.

“Of the 31,000 refugees, only 7,524 persons are voters and got their names included in the state’s voters’ list,” an official added.

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