Impasse over repatriation of 35k tribals to Mizoram deepens

AIZAWL / AGARTALA:

The decades old impasse over the repatriation of 35,000 tribal refugees to their homeland deepened further after the immigrants refused to return to their villages despite the Union Home Ministry and the Mizoram and Tripura governments making fresh arrangements to repatriate them to Mizoram.

The leaders of the 35,000 refugees, sheltered in seven relief camps in northern Tripura since October 1997, in a letter to the Mizoram Home Minister said that they would not return to their homes in Mizoram until their demands for safety and security were met by the government.

The leaders of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF), the refugees' apex body, in the letter to Mizoram Home Minister Lalchamliana sent through the north Tripura District Magistrate on Monday alleged that the provisions of the four-partite agreement signed in Delhi on July 3 last year were violated.

The MBDPF letter, available with IANS, has urged the Mizoram government to hold the joint monitoring group meeting for a permanent solution of the refugee imbroglio.

Abeda Nanda Baidya, Sub-Divisional Magistrate of northern Tripura's Kanchanpur where some of the refugee camps are located, told IANS over phone on Tuesday that as per the earlier decision Mizoram and the Tripura governments have been making arrangements to repatriate the refugees to Mizoram from Thursday.

"It was decided earlier that the Mizoram government would arrange vehicles and the north Tripura district administration would provide security during the proposed repatriation. But following the MBDPF letter to the Mizoram home minister, the repatriation schedule has become uncertain," Baidya said.

Meanwhile, following an agreement signed in Delhi on July 3 last year, foodgrains and other relief supplies to the Reang refugees were to be stopped from October 1, 2018, to compel them to return to their respective villages in Mizoram.

However, following the refugees' appeal, it was extended twice by the Union Home Ministry till March 31, 2019 and then again till September 30.

"A Home Ministry letter to the Chief Secretaries of Tripura and Mizoram had said that the refugees have to be repatriated by September 30. Free rations and other facilities will be stopped then," an official of Tripura's Revenue and Relief department told IANS.

The 35,000 refugees, comprising 5,907 families, have been sheltering in seven relief camps in northern Tripura for the past 22 years, after they fled from Mizoram in the wake of communal tension.

The migrants are originally residents of nine (out of the state's 40) assembly constituencies in the three Mizoram districts of Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib. The July 3, 2018 agreement had finalised a six-point benefit package for each refugee family.

The package included financial aid of Rs 4 lakh, a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000, Rs 1.5 lakh for building a house for each family and free ration for two years. But the refugees later refused the package demanding security in Mizoram by central paramilitary forces and allotment of five hectares of land to each refugee family, besides the formation of an Area Development Council for the Reang tribals, a primitive tribe among the tribals.

During the signing of the agreement in New Delhi, former Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (currently Defence Minister), Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and his former Mizoram counterpart Lal Thanhawla were present.