Kanchanpur (Tripura), April 27 (IANS) The much-awaited repatriation of Reang tribal refugees from Tripura to Mizoram has failed to kick off yet again as they are unwilling to return to their villages without a written agreement and arrangements for their security, officials here say.
The refugees were to start going back Thursday. 'Tripura and Mizoram government officials tried to persuade them till late night. But they were adamant about not going unless their 18-point charter of demands was fulfilled by Mizoram and the central government,' Tripura government's Revenue Secretary Swapan Saha told IANS.
The demands include a written agreement between the Mizoram, Tripura and the central governments and the refugees' leaders that would ensure livelihood to the Reang tribals in Mizoram, and setting up of a monitoring committee to supervise the settlement of home-bound refugees sheltered in Tripura for the past 15 years.
'The Tripura government on the request of its Mizoram counterpart arranged 72 vehicles to carry the tribal refugees to their villages under Mamit district in western Mizoram,' Saha said.
A total of 669 tribal families, comprising about 3,655 men, women and children, were scheduled to be sent back in five phases from Thursday, North Tripura District Magistrate Parshanta Kumar told IANS on phone.
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 fled their villages after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.
The stalled repatriation process got a boost after union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's visit to Tripura and Mizoram recently and a series of meetings with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Mizoram Chief Minister P.U. Lalthanhawla.
The refugees, lodged in six camps in northern Tripura, 180 km north of Agartala, have occasionally organised protest rallies.
'The long-awaited repatriation of Reang refugees had resumed April 12 last year, but the process was stopped as most refugees were unwilling to return home without a written assurance from the Mizoram government,' a Tripura government official said in Agartala.
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