Agartala, Jan. 16: The prospect of an early repatriation of all Reang refugees in Mizoram suffered a major setback as a fresh ethnic conflict between Mizos and Reangs was reported from Mammith district of the state bordering North Tripura.
Yesterday, 10 terror-stricken Reang families, who went to their homeland in Mizoram as part of the repatriation process, returned to the remote Hamsapara village under Kawnmun police station in North Tripura.
Confirming the arrival of 10 families of repatriated refugees, sub-inspector of Kawnmun police station, Len Prasad Reang, said altogether 45 people belonging to the 10 families had fled their newly-constructed homes in Mammith because of ethnic tension and burning down of houses of at least 20 Reang families by majority Mizos.
“According to members of the 10 families, more families are likely to return unless ethnic tension eases,” he said.
He said members of the 10 families, who had put up at a primary school, were being given nominal assistance by the Kanchanpur subdivisional administration.
The sub-divisional magistrate, Kanchanpur, Dilip Chakma, is in touch with the Mizoram administration in Mammith district but he could not be contacted. The state administration, too, is preparing to cope with the situation.
The Reangs, who constitute the second largest indigenous group in Mizoram, next only to Mizos, had raised the demand for a district council — based on the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution — comprising four Assembly constituencies in southwest Mizoram where they are majority in Mammith district bordering Tripura.
This led to tension and after the mysterious death of a Mizo forester, largescale attacks on Reangs began in October 1997. From October 15, 1997, influx of Reangs into Tripura started and the figure rose to over 35,000. They have been sheltered in six camps in North Tripura’s Kanchanpur subdivision ever since.
Successive state governments of Mizoram cited one issue or the other to block repatriation of Reangs in Mizoram despite sustained pressure from the Union home ministry and the Tripura government.
“A fresh attempt was made for repatriation before the last Assembly elections in Mizoram and chief minister Lal Thanhawla promised to take the repatriation process to its logical conclusion but after the elections nothing has been done. Thousands of camp inmates are still waiting for repatriation,” said S.K. Reang, director of relief and rehabilitation.
He said unless the Mizoram government sincerely comes forward to take back the refugees with security and rehabilitate them in protected cluster villages, the repatriation process will take forever to complete.