Tripura blames Mizoram as refugee repatriation hangs

Agartala, March 5 (IANS) Tripura Friday accused Mizoram of going against the union home ministry’s directive by not taking steps to repatriate Reang tribal refugees who have been sheltered in Tripura for 13 years.

‘The Mizoram government has been violating the union home ministry’s direction over the repatriation of Reang tribal refugees. Whenever the centre and Tripura government takes efforts to send back the evacuees, the Mizoram government fails to take initiative to take back their residents,’ Tripura Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Badal Choudhury said in the assembly.

‘Due to the long stay of the tribal refugees (since October 1997), Tripura is facing serious socio-economic problems,’ Choudhury said.

Over 37,000 Reang tribal refugees have been sheltered in six camps in north Tripura, adjacent to Mizoram, since 1997 when they fled west Mizoram following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

The union home ministry through the Tripura government has so far spent around Rs.1.54 billion for their upkeep.

The minister told the house that a series of tripartite meetings was held in New Delhi, Aizawl and Agartala. ‘In every meeting the Mizoram government has agreed to take back the refugees but subsequently they backed off from their commitment.’

Former minister and senior Congress legislator Birjit Sinha demanded rehabilitation of the refugees.

Opposition leader Gopal Roy told the house: ‘The refugees have been passing days in inhuman conditions in the relief camps. Rampant corruption over providing relief has also become a ‘normal practice’ on the part of officials.’

The tribal refugees are unwilling to return to their homes in Mizoram until their demands for security and sufficient financial assistance are accepted by the state government there.

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