Agartala/Aizawl: Around 1,200 Reang refugees have returned to their homes in Mizoram for the first time in 13 years after the Union Home Ministry asked the state government to take back the displaced tribals, sheltered in six Tripura camps.
"About 235 families comprising 1,200 men, women and children have been repatriated in three batches (on Friday, Monday and Wednesday) to Mamit district of western Mizoram," north Tripura’s Kanchanpur divisional magistrate Dilip Chakma said Thursday.
"There is no information with the Tripura government on when the remaining refugees would be repatriated," Chakma told a news agency.
According to an official in Aizawl, union Home Minister P Chidambaram had during his visit Tuesday asked the Mizoram government and tribal leaders to help repatriate all 37,000 Reang tribal refugees to their ancestral villages. They have been sheltered in six north Tripura camps for 13 years.
Refugee leader Elvis Chorkhy, who is also president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), said: "We shall observe the resettlement of repatriated tribal refugees in their villages and then we shall decide the repatriation of the remaining evacuees."
The New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has been pressurising the union home ministry to ask the Mizoram government to take back all the refugees at the earliest.
"The union home ministry in a letter to the ACHR has informed that it had sanctioned grants-in-aid of Rs 24,300,000 to the Mizoram government for meeting expenditure on repatriation and rehabilitation of the tribal refugees," ACHR director Suhas Chakma said in a statement.
The statement quoting the letter said the Mizoram government would also provide house construction assistance of Rs.38,500 per tribal family, free rations to the displaced tribals for a period of nine months, adequate security and financial assistance for their ‘jhum’ cultivation (slash and burn method of cultivation).
Around 32,000 Reang tribal refugees have taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura, adjacent to Mizoram, since 1997 when they fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.
The refugees’ repatriation from Tripura to Mizoram was stopped in November last year when a mob in western Mizoram burnt down around 700 tribal houses after an 18-year-old Mizo youth was shot dead by unidentified miscreants.
Following the arson and violence, about 5,500 displaced Reang tribals took shelter afresh in adjacent north Tripura.