Ethnic troubles resurface in Tripura over resettlement of Mizoram tribals

By Sujit Chakraborty

Agartala, Sep 4 (IANS): Simmering ethnic troubles have resurfaced in Tripura with people from the Mizo and Bengali communities reviving their strong opposition to Tripura governments ongoing initiatives to rehabilitate over 37,000 Reang tribals, who were displaced from Mizoram 25 years ago following ethnic troubles in the neighbouring state.

The proposed target for the resettlement of 37,000 Reang tribals by August 31 could not be achieved due to the fresh troubles, threats of agitation against the rehabilitation and numerous other issues.

The worst-ever ethnic violence over the rehabilitation of the displaced Reang tribals in December 2020 had left two persons dead and scores injured during a national highway blockade in northern Tripura.

The Joint Movement Committee (JMC), an apex body of various organisations, including the Nagarik Suraksha Mancha (NSM) and Mizo Convention, is spearheading the agitations against the "unplanned rehabilitation of Reang tribals jeopardising the security, livelihood and economic conditions of the indigenous people of Kanchanpur".

The JMC leaders held a series of meetings during the past two weeks to chalk out their agitation programme.

NSM President Ranjit Nath said that violating the earlier agreement, the state government, which already rehabilitated around 540 families in the Kanchanpur sub-division, has again decided to rehabilitate over 1,250 more Reang tribal families in different villages of this same sub-division.

"Proposed resettlement of 1,250 more tribal families in the small areas of Kanchanpur would endanger all aspects of the indigenous Bengali, Mizo and other tribals who are living in harmony in Kanchanpur for several decades," Nath told IANS.

"We are not against the resettlement of Reang tribals in Tripura, but these should not be done at the cost of the indigenous people of the state. We have told the government to settle the Reang tribals in different districts to maintain a demographic balance," he added.

The NSM President said that they have communicated their views to Chief Minister Manik Saha, Central minister Pratima Bhowmik and local MLAs and leaders.

"If the government remains firm on its stand, we would soon launch agitations against such unfair and unscientific rehabilitation plans," Nath said.

Over 38,072 Reang tribal migrants, comprising 7,364 families, had sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura's Kanchanpur and nearby Panisagar sub-division since 1997 after the ethnic troubles began in Mizoram.

Around 6,367 tribals returned to Mizoram in eight phases after the Central, Mizoram and Tripura governments made many attempts to repatriate the displaced tribals from Tripura to Mizoram between 2009 and 2019, but the majority (37,136 tribals comprising 6,959 families) of the migrants were reluctant to return to their home state unless their demands, including security and livelihood, were met.

Subsequently, a quadripartite agreement was signed in January 2020 between the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram governments and the Reang tribal leaders to resettle the 37,136 tribal immigrants in 12 or 13 locations in four districts of Tripura by August 31, 2022.

The Reang tribals, locally called ‘Bru', were to be included as voters in Tripura as maintained in the agreement after which the Centre had announced a Rs 600 crore package for the settlement of the Reang tribals, recognised as a primitive tribe in Tripura.

According to the agreement, signed in the presence of Chief Ministers of Tripura and Mizoram and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, each Reang tribal family will be entitled to get one-time financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit for two years, a piece of land in clusters measuring 30 x 40 feet for construction of a house, house building assistance Rs 1,50,000, monthly cash assistance of Rs 5,000 for a period of two years, and free ration for two years from the date of resettlement.

As per the agreement, other basic facilities including education to the tribal children would also be provided.

The Election Commission has also started deleting names of Reang tribals from the electoral list of Mizoram after the displaced tribals were settled in different districts of Tripura and will include these in the latter state's voters' list.

Officials of the Mizoram election department said that in consultation with the Election Commission, names of several hundred voters belonging to the Reang tribal community have so far been deleted in three districts of Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei.

The deletion process was initiated after a communication from the Tripura poll panel and it would continue till the entire process is completed.

Officials of Mizoram election department said that around 11,760 Reang tribal voters, including 5,750 females, who were lodged in seven camps in Tripura and are being resettled in that state, were earlier enrolled in the voter list of different districts of Mizoram.

An official of the Tripura poll panel said that as per the agreement in January 2020, Reang tribals, whose names were removed from the Mizoram electoral list, would be included in the voter list of Tripura after following the stipulated process.



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