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Home minister to visit Tripura

Agartala, Feb. 12: Union home minister P. Chidambaram will visit Tripura on February 18 to try and resolve the Reang refugee imbroglio.

He will then fly to Kanchanapur sub-division of North Tripura by a chopper to hold discussion with the leaders of refugees and inmates. The home minister will assure them of protection of their rights in Mizoram upon repatriation.

Official sources here said Chidambaram’s visit is the Centre’s response to repeated appeals made by the Reang refugee leaders in Delhi in deputation with the home minister and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“He will visit the Naisingpara refugee camp in Kanchanpur sub-division in North Tripura,” a source said.

Chidambaram’s visit will be preceded by the Union home secretary R.K. Singh and the chief secretary and home secretary of Mizoram on February 17. They will be here to discuss repatriation with Tripura chief secretary S.K. Panda and officers of the home department.

The Reang refugees entered Tripura in October 1997 to escape ethnic riots and atrocities inflicted upon them by the Mizos in Mammith district.

The number of refugees rose to 37,800 in six camps in Kanchanpur sub-division. The initiative for repatriation of the Reang refugees had always hit a roadblock because of objections raised by the Mizoram government.

However, after Lalthanhawla took over as the chief minister of Mizoram in 2009, more than 3,000 Reang refugees in Tripura had gone back in two phases in 2009 and 2010.

But rampant complaints regarding rehabilitation benefits made available to the returnees again cast a shadow over repatriation.

Official sources here said Union home ministry had discussed the matter with the Mizoram government and persuaded it to have the refugees repatriated after verification of the number of inmates.

“We are expecting a breakthrough now because more than 14 years have passed since the Reang refugees were internally displaced; despite differences of opinion on numbers, the repatriation process is likely to start soon,” the source said.