AGARTALA: The eight-day road blockade by the tribal refugees was lifted on Thursday after the appeal of a Group of Ministers (GoM), which promised to resume the food and relief supplies to over 35,000 tribal migrants, sheltered in northern Tripura for more than 22 years after they fled Mizoram.
"The Reang tribal refugees have withdrawn their blockade of important highways in Kanchanpur, adjoining Mizoram," Tripura Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma told IANS.
Dev Varma, who led GoM to the refugee camps, said supply food and relief to the tribal refugees would be resumed from Friday.
"The refugees will have to return to their villages in Mizoram. The future of young generations will be spoiled if they stayed in the relief camps for years," he said.
The GoM, which included Tribal Welfare Minister Mevar Kumar Jamatia, Law and Education Minister Ratan Lal Nath, Social Welfare Minister Santana Chakma, Pratima Bhowmik and Rebati Tripura (both MPs), also held a meeting with the refugee leaders.
Earlier, the state government deployed huge contingent of para-military and Tripura State Rifles in Panisagar and Kanchanpur sub-divisions, where over 35,000 Reang tribal refugees are sheltered in seven relief centres since October 1997 after they fled their villages in the wake of communal tension.
The district administration, however, also promulgated section 144 of the CrPc to prohibit the gathering of people in the tension-ridden tribal dominated areas, 175 km north of Agartala.
Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Panisagar Lalnunnemi Darlong and SDM Kanchanpur Abeda Nanda Baidya told IANS over phone that supplies to refugees were stopped on September 30.
Senior tribal leaders Prem Kumar Reang (BJP), Jitendra Chowdhury (CPI-M), former Tripura Congress chief Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council Chief Executive Member Radhacharan Debbarma met the refugees during the last few days and demanded resumptions of relief.
Former Union Minister and Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh, who is leading a six-member Congress delegation to northeast to gather views on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), told the media here on Wednesday, "it is a gross humanitarian violation of stopping supply of food and relief to thesm."
The refugees were blockading vital roads since October 31 demanding resumption of supplies. The Union Home Ministry through the Tripura government have spent around Rs 900 crore to provide relief to them during the past 22 years.
The Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF), the apex body of refugees, in separate letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and North Tripura District Magistrate Raval Hemendra Kumar urged resumption of supplies.
According to a Relief Department official, after the four-partite agreement in Delhi on July 3, 2018, the stalled repatriation of refugees resumed on October 3 with arrangements made by the Tripura and Mizoram governments.
Only 670 immigrants have returned to their villages, recently. "The repatriation process could not be carried out properly due to protests and obstacles put up by a section of refugees, mostly women," he said.
The refugees have expressed dissatisfaction over the repatriation process. They have demanded an autonomous district council (ADC) for the Reang tribals, re-arrangement of resettlement areas, liberty to each family to choose their area of resettlement, deployment of central forces for the protection of the repatriated refugees and cash assistance.
A Home Department official in Aizawl said the Union Home Ministry recently approved Rs 350 crore for rehabilitation of the tribals, after completion of the ninth phase of the repatriation process.
The MBDPF in a letter to the Mizoram Home Minister alleged that provisions of the four-partite agreement had been violated. The agreement had finalised a six-point benefit package for each refugee family. It included Rs 4 lakh financial aid, monthly allowance of Rs 5,000, Rs 1.5 lakh for building a house and free ration for two years.
But the refugees later refused the package, demanding security by central paramilitary forces and allotment of five hectares of land to each refugee family, besides the formation of an ADC.
The refugees hail from three districts in Mizoram -- Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib -- spanning across nine of the state's 40 Assembly constituencies.