Mizoram told to take back refugees

Agartala, Aug 22 (IANS) The union home ministry has again asked the Mizoram government to take back over 37,000 tribal refugees, living in Tripura for almost 16 years, officials said here Thursday.

"The union home ministry has again asked the Mizoram government to take back the refugees immediately," Tripura's revenue department secretary Swapan Saha told reporters here.

He said: "In a separate letter, Tripura Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar Panda requested Mizoram Chief Secretary (L. Tochhong) to take appropriate steps so that the refugees could go back home."

The tribals had fled after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in New Delhi last month and requested their intervention.

Sarkar told the two that "continuous presence for over 16 years of refugees from Mizoram has been a matter of concern for Tripura".

"The long stay has its own socio-economic and law and order problems. The state government is providing necessary support for early repatriation of these families. However, the process has been extremely slow," said Sarkar.

However, refugees have been insisting that without a formal agreement between the union, Mizoram and Tripura governments and tribal leaders, their rehabilitation will remain uncertain.

The Reang refugees, lodged since October 1997 in six makeshift camps in Kanchanpur sub-division of north Tripura, 180 km north of Agartala, have sent several memoranda to the prime minister and the union home minister in support of their 18-point charter of demands.

In the past, around 4,500 refugees had returned in 2010 and 2011 following continued persuasion by Mizoram and home ministry officials. However, the process got stalled after that.

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