FROM A CORRESPONDENT
AGARTALA, Aug 31: Officials of the Union Home Ministry and two state governments on Tuesday asked Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in Tripura for the last 19 years, to return to their homes in Mizoram and take benefit of the rehabilitation package.
“Senior officials of MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) have asked the refugee leaders to go to their homes and take the benefit of the rehabilitation package,” an official of the Tripura revenue department said.
He said the Mizoram government officials, during a meeting here on Tuesday, told the MHA officials that they are also ready to take back the tribal refugees and rehabilitate them in their villages in the western part of the state.
Union Home Ministry’s Special Secretary (Interl Security) Mahesh Kumar Singla and Joint Secretary in charge of the northeast Satyendra Garg came here on Tuesday from New Delhi and held a meeting with the officials of Tripura and Mizoram governments.
Mizoram home department’s Additiol Secretary Lalbiakzama, refugee leaders led by Dhanjoy Reang and Mizoram tribal leaders were present at the meeting.
The Tripura official said MHA officials would go to Mizoram on Wednesday and talk to the tribal leaders and state government officials there to filise the ways and means of the much-awaited repatriation of refugees.
The MHA officials in June and July visited Tripura and Mizoram and persuaded the 31,300 Reang tribal refugees to return their homes at the earliest.
The MHA undertook serious efforts after the Supreme Court’s directives about the repatriation of the refugees. The Mizoram government submitted a roadmap to the central government on how it plans to rehabilitate the displaced people.
The Tripura official said the Supreme Court had asked the Union Home Ministry and the Mizoram and Tripura governments to jointly work for the return of the tribal refugees to their homes in Mizoram.
About 31,300 Reang tribals, who call themselves ‘Bru’, have been living in seven makeshift camps in North Tripura’s Kanchanpur area adjoining Mizoram since October 1997.
They had fled ethnic violence in western Mizoram following the killing of a Mizo forest officer at the Dampa Tiger Reserve.
Despite several initiatives by the Mizoram government to bring them back, the refugees have been reluctant to go back to their villages unless their demands for food and security are met.
Mizoram’s Additiol Secretary (home) Lalbiakzama said in Aizawl that the state government submitted to the Union Home Ministry a detailed plan for taking back the tribal refugees.
“The Mizoram government has sought Rs 68 crore from the central government to rehabilitate the tribals,” Lalbiakzama said.
Several Mizo organisations, including the powerful Young Mizo Association, have demanded deletion of mes from the voter list of those tribals who are unwilling to come back to the state.
Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla also supported this demand.
The Tripura government has been asking the Centre and Mizoram governments to repatriate the refugees at the earliest as serious socio-economic and law and order problems have cropped up in the state.
Refugee leader Bruno Msha said the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) has been demanding fincial assistance of Rs 150,000 per repatriated family, free rations for every repatriated family for two years, providing cultivable land, a political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security. “We have on a number of occasions told the central and Mizoram governments that the refugees are willing to return to their homes in Mizoram if their 10-point demands, including security and rehabilitation, are met,” he added.