Tribal refugees want rehab package before return

People from various tribal communities across the country participate in a demonstration against the Central Government over the alleged diversion of forest lands and the denial of their rights in the capital, ahead of the November 26 hearing of the Supreme Court on the Forest Rights Act of tribal people in the country; in New Delhi on Nov 21, 2019.

Agartala,  A representative body of the 35,000 tribal refugees, sheltered in northern Tripura for more than 22 years after they fled Mizoram, on Thursday said that they would not return to their homeland unless their permanent rehabilitation and development package was announced by the government.

“The refugees are willing to go back to their villages in Mizoram. But the Mizoram government is too rigid to solve our basic issues permanently resulting in the failure of previous repatriation process,” said the General Secretary of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), the apex body of refugees, Bruno Msha.

He said: “At the moment we are not insisting on our original demands. Now we the Dampa Tiger Reserve Sanctuary de-reserved in Mizoram so that tribal refugees are rehabilitated there.

“Our second demand is a development package by the Union DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) and Tribal Affairs Ministries for long-lasting and all-round development of the backward Reang tribals.”

Over 35,000 Reang tribal refugees including women and children have been sheltered in seven relief camps since October 1997 after they fled their villages in western Mizoram in the wake of communal tension.

Earlier this month, the government had stopped supplying food grains and relief materials ostensibly to force them to return their villages in Mizoram.

After 8-day blockades to the vital highways in northern Tripura, a ministerial team led by Tripura Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma, visited the refugee camps (in northern Tripura’s Kanchanpur) and resumed their food grains and relief materials for November only.

MBDPF General Secretary, President A. Sawibunga and other leaders while talking to the media on Thursday said that the Centre must ask the Mizoram government to solve the refugees’ basic issues.