Mizo refugees repatriation from Tripura in balance

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AIZAWL/AGARTALA - The Mizoram government Tuesday said militants are obstructing the repatriation process of over 41,000 Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in six camps of north Tripura for the past 13 years.

The repatriation of 41,600 tribal refugees from north Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division to their villages in western Mizoram began Nov 3. Since then, 400 Reang tribal refugees, locally called ‘Bru’, have returned to their homes.

When 66 families were ready to return home Friday, hundreds of other refugees put up a blockade on the Tripura-Mizoram highway, protesting non-settlement of their eight-point demands.

“The police arrested 655 protesters and cleared the blockade. Subsequently, 48 refugee families left Tripura for their homes,” a Tripura official said.

Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana Tuesday alleged in Aizawl that militants of Reang tribals are intimidating innocent refugees in Tripura relief camps and are trying to spoil the repatriation process.

“There are some Reang tribal extremists who are intimidating and threatening innocent tribal immigrants and also indulging in illegal activities,” the home minister told reporters.

Lalzirliana said the security forces are prepared to take firm action against these guerrillas.

A Tripura government official, however, said there was no specific report of militants’ intimidating the home-bound refugees.

“The refugees have been demanding an eight-point rehabilitation package, including formation of an autonomous district council in Mizoram, and reservation for them in government jobs and state assembly. They (refugees) want a four-partite written agreement involving the central, Tripura and Mizoram governments, and refugee leaders,” Kanchanpur Sub-divisional magistrate Dilip Chakma told IANS on phone.

“There might be a splinter group of militants. But we have no specific reports of militants’ intimidating the home-bound willing refugees,” he added.

In April 2005, the Mizoram government and the militant Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) signed an agreement after 13 rounds of talks to solve the decade-old ethnic crisis, leading to the surrender of about 1,040 militants of the BNLF and Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM), another separatist outfit.

Both the rebel outfits have been fighting for setting up an autonomous council for the refugees.

Over 41,600 Reang tribals, locally called Bru, have been living in six camps in north Tripura’s Kanchanpur sub-division since October 1997. They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos following the killing of a Mizo forest official.

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