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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reangs pour into Tripura

Agartala, Dec. 28: Around 46 Reang families from Assam have poured into the Mitrajaypara area, 3km from Kanchanpur town, during the past week. These families have already cut down trees and bushes in the reserve forest area and made makeshift huts.

Nearly 35,000 Reang refugees from Mizoram are sheltered in six camps in North Tripura’s Kanchanpur subdivision. These people ha-ve been staying there for the past 15 years and the process to repatriate them hasn’t seen any progress. Now comes this fresh wave of influx from Assam.

Though the Reangs from Assam have illegally encroa-ched on reserve forestland, the authorities have not initiated any action against them.

Deputy collector of Kanchanpur subdivision Subhash Dutta played down the incident saying there was no official confirmation of Reangs encroaching. “Officially, we haven’t received any information. But one of my junior colleagues told me that 20 families have arrived at Mitrajaypara, 19 families in Jamaraypara and 7 families in Urihampara villages. The forest department investigates encroachment on forestland, but we are also trying to collect information.”

Prashant Goel, district magistrate (north Tripura) has asked the subdivision administration to look into the matter and directed SDO (Kanchanpur) Sandip Rathore to visit the three villages and urgently file a report .

Rathore was not available for comment, but sources in Kanchanpur SDO office said the Reang families came from the Bharavi area of Cachar district in Assam.

In October 1997, the influx of Reang refugees began in the wake of ethnic violence in Mirzoram. But there have been no such conflicts in the Bhairavi area of Cachar district to spark such an exodus.

“This morning, we got information that 200 more families will soon arrive to settle down in Tripura. Binod Reang, an elderly head of a refugee family, said a few leaders of Ashapara Reang refugee camp in Kanchanpur had encouraged them to come over and settle down in Tripura,” a source said.

With Assembly elections around the corner, no political leader agreed to comment on the issue. The common refrain was that the administration should look into the matter. But, former Congress MLA and PCC spokesperson Tapas De said a serious ethnic problem might erupt if the administration let’s its guard down.

“After the influx of Reang refugees from Mizoram, several hundred poor Bengali families were forced to leave their homes in areas around the six refugee camps. The same problem may resurface unless the influx from Assam is stopped immediately with drastic action,” De said.