Deadlock on 35,000 Reang refugee repatriation to Mizoram continues

A meeting with Mizoram officials has failed to resolve a 13-year-old deadlock on the repatriation of 35,000 Reang tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram, tribal leaders and officials said here Saturday.

The much expected meeting was held in Mizoram capital Aizawl Friday afternoon. Ten senior Mizoram government officials led by Additional Secretary (Home) T.V. Fambol and seven leaders of the Bru Coordination Committee (BCC), an apex body of tribal refugees and surrendered tribal militants, attended the meeting.
"The union home ministry yet to provide funds to rehabilitate the tribal refugees after their return to Mizoram from Tripura. Without adequate financial assistance from the centre, the state government is unable to start the repatriation," Fambol told reporters after the meeting.
The Reang (locally called Bru) tribal refugees have been living in six north Tripura camps since 1997 after they fled Mizoram following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizo community after the killing of a Mizo forest official by unidentified people.
Friday’s meeting, however, decided to take back and rehabilitate the 4,000 Reang tribals, who were displaced in November last year following ethnic violence sparked off after the killing of an 18-year-old Mizo youth Zarzokima in western Mizoram Nov 13.
The special investigation team (SIT) of Mizoram police arrested two suspected militants earlier this week for killing the Mizo youth.
"Both the detainees are members of United Liberation Army (ULA), a little known separatist outfit," police said.
"Both the centre and the Mizoram government rejected our major demands. We will not return unless our vital demands are fulfilled," said a visibly annoyed Elvis Chorkhy, who led the seven-member Reang delegation at Friday’s meeting.
A similar inconclusive meeting was held in Nov 4 last year to resolve the repatriation issue that has been hanging fire for 13 years following differences between the migrants and the state government over the rehabilitation package.
"The Mizoram government package for home-bound refugees suggested a Rs.20,000 cash grant instead of Rs.50,000 as promised earlier. The package also recommended a scattered resettlement of the 35,000 tribal refugees in three different districts – Mamit, Kolashib and Lunglei. We want compact rehabilitation of the tribals in two districts in western Mizoram," Chorky told IANS.
The New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has criticised the Mizoram government for not solving the ethnic issues for 13 years.
"The Mizoram government failed to show any seriousness to resolve the Bru crisis," said ACHR director Suhas Chakma in a statement issued in New Delhi.
A five-member fact finding team from the ACHR had visited Mizoram and Tripura Dec 8-15 last year to facilitate a resolution to the ethnic conflict between the Reang tribals and the majority Mizos.
The Tripura government also has been pressing both the centre and the Mizoram government to take back the refugees at the earliest to end the socio-economic problems prevailing due to the long stay of the tribals in north Tripura.

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