Tripura urges PM to help send back Mizo refugees

Agartala, July 18 (IANS) The Tripura government has sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention to send back over 37,000 tribal refugees, living in Tripura for 16 years, back to their homes in Mizoram, officials said here Thursday.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and federal Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde in New Delhi Wednesday and requested their personal intervention to send back the refugees who fled Mizoram following ethnic violence.

According to the official, Sarkar told prime minister and home minister separately that "continuous presence for over 16 years of about 37,000 tribal refugees from Mizoram has been a matter of concern for Tripura".

"The long stay of the refugees in Tripura 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, according to the official.

"You personally intervene into the long pending issue so that the tribal families are repatriated with dignity at the earliest to their places of original residence in Mizoram," Sarkar was quoted as having said.

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

The refugees, lodged in six camps in north Tripura, 180 km north of Agartala, have sent several memoranda to the prime minister and union home minister in support of their 18-point demands.

The Reang tribal refugees have taken shelter in makeshift camps in Kanchanpur sub-division since October 1997.

After continued persuasion by Mizoram and home ministry officials, around 4,500 refugees returned to their villages in 2010 and 2011. However, the process has been stalled after that.

The tribal refugees fled their villages in Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

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