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300 'Bru' refugees return to Mizoram from Tripura
300 'Bru' refugees return to Mizoram from Tripura

Aizawl/Agartala, June 19 (IANS) Around 300 refugees sheltered in Tripura since 1997 have returned to Mizoram since Tuesday, but a large number of migrants are averse to returning to their homes until their demands are met, officials said Thursday.

Over 36,000 Reang tribals, locally called "Bru", are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura for almost 17 years.

"Of the 36,000 refugees, about 300 returned to Mizoram on their own in the past three days (Tuesday to Thursday)," Kanchanpur (in north Tripura) Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nantu Ranjan Das told IANS over phone.

Mizoram Home Department Joint Secretary Lalbiakzama told reporters in Aizawl: "Home-bound refugees arrived at the facilitation centres in Mizoram (near Tripura-Mizoram border) where officials and leaders of NGOs have identified their bona-fide residents of Mizoram."

He said: "Those identified as residents of the state (Mizoram) were taken to their respective villages (in western Mizoram). They were given 20 kg of rice per family and doctors posted at the facilitation centres conducted a thorough medical check-up."

Lalbiakzama said the repatriation process will continue for some more days even as there were reports that some people in the relief camps in northern Tripura tried to physically prevent those keen to return to Mizoram.

On the first day of the repatriation Tuesday, several hundred tribal refugees, including women, organised a sit-in demonstration at the Kanchanpur refugee camp in support of their demands, which also included signing an agreement between the refugees, the union home ministry and the governments of Tripura and Mizoram.

"We want financial assistance of Rs.150,000 per family, free ration to every repatriated family for two years, political settlement of the ethnic problem and adequate security from paramilitary forces," refugee leader Ranjit Reang told reporters at Kanchanpur, 185 km north of the Tripura capital Agartala.

The Mizoram government earlier announced they would make necessary arrangements to take back the tribal refugees.

North Tripura District Magistrate Sandeep R. Rathod told IANS over phone that they had arranged a large number of vehicles for the refugees to move to Mizoram.

"But no tribals availed the facilities to go back to their villages," he said.

Over 36,000 Reang tribals are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura since October 1997 after they fled their villages in western Mizoram following clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

The Mizoram home department said in Aizawl that the central government had sanctioned Rs.7.87 crore as financial assistance for the repatriated refugees.

"An adequate amount of food grain has been stored to provide free ration to the repatriated tribal refugees for one year," an official added.

The official said refugee leaders recently had told the Supreme Court's Special Commissioner Harsh Mander that if the Mizoram government ensured their security and livelihood, they would return to their villages.

Mizoram Home Minister R. Lalzirliana met senior officials in Aizawl recently and decided to facilitate the return of the refugees.

Only about 5,000 refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years.

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