New Delhi, April 11: A fortnight before 669 Bru (Reang) refugees are to repatriate from Tripura to Mizoram on April 26, the Centre is keeping its ear to the ground to get a sense of the political climate.
The bone of contention is Mizo NGOs’ proposal to have 1995 as the cut-off year.
Political parties and NGOs like the Young Mizo Association (YMA) are insisting that only those refugees whose names appear in the 1995 electoral rolls should be allowed to return.
“There will be no violence and we will welcome those refugees whose names are there in the 1995 rolls and their children,” former YMA president Lalchununga said over phone from Aizawl.
“They are not our enemies after all, but the Union home ministry should agree to this cut-off date,” he added.
Union home minister P. Chidambaram personally visited re-settled villages Tuipuibari and Damdiai in Mamit district of western Mizoram last Thursday.
These 800 families arrived in Mizoram between November 2010 and May 2011 from refugee camps in North Tripura where they lived since their eviction from Mizoram in 1997.
But agreeing on the cut-off date of 1995 is difficult for the Reangs because 15 years ago, they charged the Mizoram government with removing over 20,000 Bru names from the state electoral rolls.
Chief minister Lalthanhawla now is on the same page as Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar as both have done their bit in the rehabilitation process.
However, the government is keeping its fingers crossed, fearing tension in the peaceful state if ethnic violence erupts again.
A seemingly simple demand of an additional district collector headquarters by Reangs sparked a conflict in 1997. In October 1997, ethnic violence following the killing of a forest official in Mizoram had forced over 40,000 Reangs to seek refuge in six camps in North Tripura.
The government push has resulted in the second round of repatriation. Yet, over 3,000 families will still be in Tripura and their repatriation will continue, a source said.
The process was stalled last year as refugees refused to return without a written assurance from Mizoram government. Now, there is not only a commitment from Mizoram, Chidambaram himself has visited the resettled villagers in Mizoram.
The Centre is chipping in. It gives Rs 38,000 for building a house and Rs 40,000 cash assistance to the returning refugees. New Delhi will also give free ration for a year, though Reang leaders want it to be increased to two years.
“We have also ensured free transportation and the Mizoram government will provide security,” said a home ministry source, adding there were problems of power supply and drinking water for the families.
A YMA meeting was held in Aizawl today to discuss the repatriation and the likely repercussions it could have in the state, a source said.
In the same region, the rehabilitation of the Chakma refugees in Arunachal Pradesh also remains a problem.