The Tripura government on Monday resumed the supply of food and relief material to Mizo refugees, sheltered in camps in the northern parts of the state for the past 21 years.
Following a four-partite agreement in Delhi on July 3, the supply of food grains and relief material was stopped from October 1, ostensibly to compel the Reang tribal migrants to return to Mizoram from where they had fled in October 1997.
The refugees, comprising 5,907 families, have been staying in Tripura’s Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions following ethnic tension after a Mizo forest official was killed.
Tripura Education and Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath, accompanied by Tripura Assembly Deputy Speaker Biswabandhu Sen, two BJP MLAs, North Tripura District Magistrate Raval Hamendra Kumar and other officials formally restarted the supply of foodgrains and relief material to the refugees on Monday.
“The Central government has agreed to resume the supply of rations and relief material to the refugees. It would continue until January 15, 2019. Within this period the refugees have to return to their homes in Mizoram,” Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abeda Nanda Baidya said.
According to an official of the Tripura Relief and Revenue Department, over Rs 366 crore have been spent to provide relief and basic services to the refugees since October 1997.
Nath, while addressing a gathering of the tribal refugees, said that life in the makeshift refugee camps was not good, specially for the younger generation.
“After the Union Home Ministry stopped the supply of relief to the refugees, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb talked to the Home Ministry to resume the supply of rations and other services immediately,” Nath said asking the refugees to return to their homeland.
“The government wants to repatriate the refugees to their home land through democratic process. Do not create any ethnic or any other administrative problems. Try to solve your problems through mutual discussions with the officials and elected leaders.
“Your life, culture, socio-economic condition, education of children would be affected to a large extent if you stay for long in refugee camps.”
The Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, on October 9 urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to restart the supply of relief and other basic services.
Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) General Secretary Bruno Msha said the refugees were keen to return to their villages but nine most basic and vital issues must be resolved before the repatriations.
The issues are opening of bank accounts, issuing of Aadhaar cards, distribution of ration cards, enrolment of the refugees’ names in Mizoram’s electoral lists and identification of villages where these refugees would be settled post-repatriation.