Tribal refugees protest in Tripura

Thursday, October 21, 2010

AGARTALA/AIZAWL - Mizoram tribal refugees sheltered in Tripura for over 13 years Thursday organised a protest rally to express their distress over the Mizoram government’s apathetic attitude to taking back the migrants.

“The Reang tribal refugees want an agreement with the Mizoram government to fulfill their economic demands and to ensure their rehabilitation in their villages after their repatriation,” Kanchanpur sub-divisional magistrate Dilip Chakma told IANS on phone.

Since October 1997, over 41,600 Reang tribal refugees, locally called Bru, have taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division, adjacent to Mizoram. They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

Thousands of tribal refugees after holding a protest rally at Kanchanpur, 170 km north of here, submitted a memorandum to the Mizoram government through the Kanchanpur sub-divisional magistrate.

Meanwhile, the Mizoram government requested the central government for one month extension of the deadline for repatriation of tribal refugees from camps in Tripura.

According to an official of Mizoram government’s home department, the union home ministry had set Oct 18 as the deadline for resumption of the repatriation process.

“The state government has sought for more time as the administration of Mamit district, where maximum number of the refugees would be resettled after repatriation, is engaged in rescue and relief operations in the area hit by landslides, triggered by heavy rains recently,” the official said.

“After the repatriation of 1,133 refugees to Mizoram in May, the total number of refugee families are 6,224 - comprising 40,504 men, women and children sheltered in the six camps,” Shiva Prasad Biswas, Tripura government’s relief, rehabilitation and disaster management department director, told IANS.

During his visit to Aizawl in May, Home Minister P. Chidambaram had asked the Mizoram government and the tribal leaders to help repatriate all Reang tribal refugees to their ancestral villages.

The refugees’ demands include house construction assistance of Rs.48,500 per tribal family, free rations to the displaced tribals for a period of 12 months, adequate security and financial assistance for their ‘jhum’ cultivation (slash and burn method of cultivation).

“Without a written agreement with the Mizoram government, we will not return to our villages as the state government had earlier failed to fulfil its commitments on a number of occasions,” a refugee leader told reporters.

Local Reang tribals — those who are residents of Tripura — also took part in Thursday’s protest rally supporting the refugees’ demands.

Filed under: Immigration

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