The Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb has sought central fund to rehabilitate 35,000 tribal refugees as the migrants are averse to return to their homeland unless the central government announces permanent settlement and development package.

The Reang tribal refugees from Mizoram are sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura for more than 22 years.

“Chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb last week wrote a letter to union home minister Amit Shah to sanction funds to rehabilitate the refugees. Deb also met Shah and discussed the issue,” a top CM Secretariat official said recently.

The CM told Shah that of the 5,400 families, comprising 35,000 refugees, 400-500 families could be settled in each sub-division of Tripura, the official said. The official didn’t disclose the amount the CM had sought.

With eight districts and 23 sub-divisions, Tripura has four million populations, one third of which are tribals.

The home ministry through the Tripura government has spent around Rs 900 crore to provide relief to the refugees during the past 22 years.

A home department official in Aizawl said, the union home ministry recently sanctioned Rs 350 crore for rehabilitation of tribals in Mizoram, after completion of the repatriation process.

Former Tripura Congress chief Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, who quit the party in September over the NRC (National Register of Citizens) issue, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged rehabilitation of refugees in Tripura.

Meanwhile, the refugee leaders in a letter to the union home ministry have urged continuance of relief supply beyond November 30.

Bruno Msha, general secretary of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), in a letter to special secretary (internal security) AP Maheshwari, said, “We have informed you several times that the refugees would not return to Mizoram unless a permanent rehabilitation and development package was announced”.

While talking to the media in Agartala, the refugee leaders said they were willing to return to their villages, but the Mizoram government was too rigid to resolve their basic issues, which caused failure of the repatriation process.

Msha said, “We want the Dampa Tiger Reserve Sanctuary in Mizoram be de-reserved to rehabilitate refugees 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 development of the backward Reang tribals”.

Over 35,000 Reang tribal refugees, including women and children, have been sheltered in 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 and other relief ostensibly to force them to return to Mizoram.

After eight-day blockade of the highways in northern Tripura by tribals, a ministerial team, led by deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Varma, visited the refugee camps and resumed supply of relief for November only.

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