Agartala, March 3: The Tripura government on Tuesday again urged the Central government to take steps to send over 31,000 tribal refugees back to Mizoram to maintain ethnic harmony in the northeastern region.
The Tripura assembly on Tuesday discussed the 17-year-old issue.
After replying to a series of questions of the legislators, Revenue and Relief Minister Badal Choudhury told the assembly: “We urge upon the central government to ask the Mizoram government to take back the refugees.”
“The Central and Mizoram governments recently took a fresh initiative to repatriate the refugees in view of the Supreme Court directions Jan 16. Union home minister Rajth Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju recently visited Tripura and persuaded the refugee leaders to go back to their homes in Mizoram,” he said.
Choudhury said: “Union home minister tried to hold a meeting with the chief ministers of Tripura and Mizoram to filise a road map to repatriate the refugees to Mizoram. However, Mizoram chief minister did not attend the meeting nor did he send his representative.”
“It is very unfortute that the tribals despite being Indians tiols and permanent inhabitant of a state, are uble to live in their homeland. This is dangerous for the ethnic amity, stability and peace,” the minister said.
He said: “A serious socio-economic problem has cropped up due to the long stay of the refugees in Tripura. The refugees have damaged vast areas in forests in Kanchanpur causing serious environmental problems.”
“Some refugees are involved in terrorist activities. The refugees also work for cheap wages, creating an awkward situation for local labourers,” the minister stated.
The Reang tribals, who call themselves “Bru”, have lived in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after the killing of a Mizo forest officer triggered ethnic troubles.
Refugee leaders told Home Minister Rajth Singh and his deputy Kiren Rijiju that they were willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10 demands, including security and rehabilitation, were met.
The Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum submitted a six-page memorandum to the central ministers accusing the Mizoram government of discrimiting against them.
The Mizoram government remains ambiguous on the refugees’ demands, which also included free supply of foodgrain for two years, and alloting land to them. Mizo organisations have opposed the demands. IANS