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Reang repatriation from Aug 16: Official

 AGARTALA, July 17 - Despite a hunger strike by a few refugees, the repatriation of Reang tribals from Tripura to Mizoram will start from August 16 as scheduled, an official said on Monday.

Some refugees continued their hunger strike in relief camps at Kanchanpur, about 180 km north of the Tripura capital, for the fifth day on Monday, demanding advance payment of the financial assistance announced by the Union Home Ministry.

The agitating refugees are also demanding two hectares of land after their repatriation to Mizoram.

“Union Home Ministry adviser Mahesh Kumar Singla held meetings with the refugee leaders and other officials to finalise the strategy of repatriation,” North Tripura District Magistrate Raval Hamendra Kumar told this news agency over phone from the district headquarters, Dharmanagar.

He said during the repatriation, the Tripura Government would provide security and logistical support, including transportation, to the refugees.

A Tripura Home Department official said here on Monday that Union Home Ministry’s Special Secretary (Internal Security) Rina Mitra would on Wednesday meet officials of the Tripura and Mizoram governments. Leaders of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), the apex body of the refugees, will also attend the meeting.

“The meeting will finalise an action plan for the repatriation,” the official said.

The 32,876 Reang tribals, locally known as Bru, have been living in six makeshift camps in north Tripura’s Kanchanpur and Panisagar subdivisions adjoining Mizoram for the past 21 years. They had fled their homes in western Mizoram following ethnic strife. The trouble in the State started after a Mizo forest official was killed.

After a series of meetings, the representatives of the Tripura, Mizoram governments, Union Home Ministry officials and the MBDPF signed an agreement on July 3 in New Delhi. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and his Mizoram counterpart Lal Thanhawla were also present in the meeting.

As per the agreement, the refugees, comprising 5,407 families, will start returning to their homes from August 16. The multi-phase repatriation will be completed by September 30.

After their return, the Reang tribals will be settled in three districts – Kolasib, Lunglei and Mamit – in western Mizoram where they lived.

The agreement has finalised a six-point benefit package for each refugee family. It includes a financial aid of Rs 4 lakh, a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000, Rs 1.5 lakh for building a house and free rations for two years.

A monitoring committee headed by Special Secretary (Internal Security) of the Ministry of Home Affairs has been constituted with officials from Tripura and Mizoram and representatives of the MBDPF to supervise the repatriation process and the settlement of the refugees.

Tripura Relief and Revenue Department Joint Secretary, Sankar Chakraborty said that a sum of around Rs 360 crore has been spent to provide relief and basic services to the refugees since October 1997. The Central Government has sanctioned the funds.

Despite several initiatives by the Mizoram Government to bring the refugees back, they have been reluctant to do so unless their demands for food and security are met.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and top officials of the MHA have visited the refugee camps in north Tripura and Mizoram many times and urged both the Mizoram Government and the refugees to end the stalemate over the repatriation.

The Supreme Court had last year directed the MHA and the Mizoram and Tripura governments to jointly work for the return of these tribal refugees. The Tripura Government has been asking the Union Government and Mizoram to help repatriate the refugees at the earliest, saying that socio-economic and law-and-order problems had cropped up in the state. – IANS

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