Relief stops, uncertainty clouds Mizo tribals' return from Tripura
The repatriation of Mizo tribal migrants from Tripura hangs in the balance even as the government stopped providing relief to the 32,876 refugees from October 1, ostensibly to compel them to return to their villages in the neighbouring state.
The Reang refugees, comprising 5,407 families, had been staying in northern Tripura's Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions after fleeing their villages in Mizoram 21 years ago due to ethnic tension.
Officials and refugee leaders remained in the dark about the resumption of the repatriations, for which both the Tripura and Mizoram governments, besides the Union Home Ministry, had readied themselves.
"We have given two weeks' backlog rations and other relief material to the refugees on Saturday and Sunday (September 29 and 30). We have through miking (public address system) informed the refugees about the government's decision to stop supply of relief from October 1 (Monday).
"As the refugees have around 12 to 15 days food and other essentials in their hand, they are yet to react. By next week we would be able to say what their motives are," Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abeda Nanda Baidya told IANS on the phone.
He said considering the future of youngsters and children among the refugees, they must return to their villages in Mizoram to begin a new life.
North Tripura District Magistrate Raval Hamendra Kumar told IANS: "The Union Home Ministry, in accordance with the July 3 agreement, has decided to stop relief and other assistance from October 1 to the Mizoram tribal refugees staying in six camps in northern Tripura."
Top officials of the Tripura and Mizoram governments, the Union Home Ministry and the refugees body, Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF), had signed the July 3 agreement on the repatriation.
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 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.
Under the agreement, the refugees were scheduled to start returning to three Mizoram districts from August 16 or 17.
But the refugees refused to return, reiterating their old demands, including security in Mizoram by central paramilitary forces and allotment of sufficient land for farming, besides the formation of an Area Development Council for the Reang tribals, locally called "Bru".
MBDPF General Secretary Bruno Msha said 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.
However, around 180 refugees comprising 33 families were returned to the villages in neighbouring Mizoram in two phases since September 19.
Talking to IANS over phone from Kanchanpur, refugee leader Bruno Msha said that currently they are seeking an opinion from the common refugees about the repatriation.
"Before the repatriations, certain issues, including opening of bank accounts and identification of locations for the settlement of the repatriated migrants, have to be settled. We might approach the central government to resume the supply of relief among the refugees," the tribal leader said.
Meanwhile, Joint Secretary of the Union Home Ministry Satyendra Garg, in a letter on September 25 to the Tripura Chief Secretary, said the Indian government's assistance being extended to the tribal migrants in the form of foodgrain, cash doles and the like would be discontinued from October 1.
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 would be resettled in 10 villages in Kolasib and 384 families in four villages in Lunglei district.- IANS