AGARTALA, April 12 – The long-awaited repatriation of tribal refugees from Tripura to neighbouring Mizoram began on Tuesday but there is still uncertainty over whether all the migrants here will return home, officials here said.
“A total of 136 tribal families comprising about 755 men, women and children have been sent back on Tuesday. By May 14, 800 families involving 4,300 people would be repatriated to their villages in western Mizoram,” Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Dilip Chakma told IANS on Tuesday.
He said, “A team of Mizoram Government officials have been camping in Kanchanpur in north Tripura to take back the refugees. The Tripura Government has been providing all logistical support for the purposes.”
According to him, the repatriation of the remaining refugees is not yet finalised.
Since October 1997, over 41,000 Reang tribal refugees, locally called Bru, have taken shelter in six camps in north Tripura's Kanchanpur sub-division, adjacent to western Mizoram.
They had fled from their villages after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.
Last month, as many as 17 people, including five children and nine women, were burnt to death on March 19 when fire ravaged north Tripura's Naishing Para refugee camp, where over 15,000 tribals have been sheltered for the past 14 years.
More than 20 people suffered burn injuries and over 2,500 huts made of bamboo, weeds and polythene sheets, were reduced to ashes in the camp, some 165 km north of Agartala.
Over 1,400 children were among the affected.
During October-November last year, 523 tribal families comprising 2,610 people were repatriated to their villages in Mizoram.