Agartala/Aizawl, January 28: The union home ministry has summoned Tripura and Mizoram officials to New Delhi on January 30 to discuss the repatriation of Mizoram’s tribal refugees, sheltered in northern Tripura for more than 17 years, officials said on Wednesday.
"The home ministry has convened a meeting of officials of Tripura and Mizoram in New Delhi Jan 30 to resume the repatriation of tribal refugees to Mizoram," Tripura’s Relief and Rehabilitation Department Additiol Secretary Karmani Das told IANS.
"The (Tripura) state government has been asking both Mizoram and the union home ministry to repatriate the tribal refugees to their villages in Mizoram. A serious socio–economic problem has cropped up due to the long stay of the refugees in Tripura," said Das, who would represent Tripura in the meeting.
Senior officials of the union home ministry would also attend the meeting.
An official in Aizawl said Mizoram Chief Secretary Lalmalsawma held a meeting with the home department officials on Tuesday to filise the strategy for the New Delhi meeting.
Friday’s meeting assumes significance in view of the Supreme Court directions on January 16 about the refugees.
The apex court directed the central and the state governments of Mizoram and Tripura to hold consultations within four months to formulate plans to continue repatriation of the refugees to Mizoram from the Tripura relief camps.
"Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla while speaking in the meeting of the North Eastern Council on January 2 in Shillong, proposed that those refugees who refused to return to Mizoram despite concerted efforts, should be settled permanently in Tripura," the official added.
"In the last road map for the repatriation of refugees, only 6,647 tribals had returned to Mizoram from Tripura till November last year," the official quoted the chief minister as saying at the NEC meeting.
About 35,000 Reang tribals, locally called "Bru", are staying in six camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 after they fled their villages in western Mizoram following ethnic troubles after the killing of a Mizo forest official.
The refugee leaders in the relief camps said they were reluctant to return to their homes unless their genuine demands were met.
"We have submitted a memorandum to a central government team to solve our 10–point demands, including permanent solution to the ethnic problems," refugee leader and Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) general secretary Bruno Mesha told IANS over phone from Kanchanpur, 190 km north of here.
The refugees’ demands include economic rehabilitation of the repatriated refugees, adequate security, allotment of land, employment, free ration for two years and fincial assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh per family. The MBDPF leaders also requested the central government team that till the time they are repatriated to Mizoram, the amount of relief items, including rice, should be increased and their living conditions in makeshift camps should be improved.
Following an order of the Tripura High Court, the union home ministry had last year constituted a seven–member committee headed by Rajiv Gauba, the ministry’s additiol secretary, to oversee the condition of the refugees in the Tripura camps.
The central team visited the refugee camps last year and submitted its report to the Tripura High Court.
Tripura and Mizoram share a 109–km border.
The Tripura High Court passed its order on June 24 following a petition filed by a lawyer. The refugees also demanded that they should be given facilities and status like that of Kashmiri Pandits and Tamil refugees and should be allotted land. They also demanded creation of model villages in Reang tribals’ inhabited areas, better security and sanitation and education for the tribals in Mizoram. (IANS)