Agartala, Sept 19: A total of 131 of the 32,876 Mizo tribals on Wednesday returned to their homes in Mizoram brightening the prospect of the remaining, who have been sheltering in Tripura camps for the past 21 years.
“Around 130 refugees belonging to 21 families returned to Mizoram from northern Tripura. We have provided logistical support and security to the refugees to reach the Tripura-Mizoram border,” Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abeda Nanda Baidya told IANS over phone from the border.
He said that the officials of Mizoram’s Mamit district received the home-bound tribals at the Kanmun border.
The repatriation was decided in July in New Delhi after a series of meetings. Top officials of the Tripura and Mizoram governments, Union Home Ministry and the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) had signed the agreement.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and his Mizoram counterpart Lal Thanhawla were all present during the signing of the pact.
The July 3 agreement finalised a six-point benefit package for each refugee family. It included financial aid of Rs 4 lakh; a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000; Rs 1.5 lakh for building a house and free rations for two years.
As per the agreement, 32,876 Reang tribals, comprising of 5,407 families, were scheduled to start returning to their homeland in three Mizoram districts from August 16 or 17.
The multi-phase repatriation was scheduled to be completed by September 30.
But the refugees refused to return reiterating their old demands, including providing security in Mizoram by the central para-military forces and allotment of sufficient land for farming besides formation of the Area Development Council for the Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”.
MBDPF General Secretary Bruno Msha had told the media that their demands, which were not incorporated in the agreement, also included allotment of five hectares of land to each refugee family after their return.
The MBDPF is the apex organisation of the 32,876 refugees, who have been living in six makeshift camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions, adjoining Mizoram, for the past 21 years.
The primitive tribe had fled their homes in October 1997, in western Mizoram following ethnic strife. The trouble in the state started after a Mizo forest official was killed.
A Monitoring Committee headed by Special Secretary (Internal Security) of the Ministry of Home Affairs has been constituted with officials from Tripura and Mizoram and representatives of MBDPF to supervise the repatriation process and the settlement of the refugees.
Meanwhile, Mizoram Home Department Additional Secretary Lalbiakzama told the media in Aizawl that 4,199 Reang tribal families would be resettled in 48 villages in Mamit district, 824 and 384 families would be resettled in 10 villages in Kolasib and four villages in Lunglei districts, respectively.
In another development, Communist Party of India-Marxist Lok Sabha Chief Whip Jitendra Chowdhury, a former Tribal Welfare Minister of Tripura, urged the Centre not to repatriate the Reang tribals without the settlement of the land and other issues.
“Without settling the basic and genuine issues of the tribals including land, livelihood and security, the refugees should not be repatriated against their unwillingness. I have raised the issue in Lok Sabha last week. But government is yet to respond on these issues,” Chowdhury told IANS on Wednesday. (IANS)