KANCHANPUR, Tripura — The depressing mood has disappeared. Instead, a festive atmosphere has gripped northern Tripura's seven relief camps, where over 34,000 tribal immigrants are sheltered after they fled adjoining Mizoram 23 years ago following ethnic strife.
The Jan. 16 four-party agreement involving Tripura, Mizoram, the Center and the Reang tribals representatives in Delhi has come as a ray of hope for Reang men, women and children who have lived in fear. The pact involves rehabilitation of 5,400 Reang families in Tripura where they migrated first in 1997 and again in 2009 from Mizoram following ethnic unrest.
Officials are now taking necessary administrative steps before starting the rehabilitation process.
Young Marina Reang, a woman inmate of Naisingpara camp, one of the seven refugee camps in north Tripura District, said: "We are grateful to Modi-ji, Amit Shah-ji and Biplab Deb-ji (Tripura Chief Minister) for giving us a new life to lead. Life was very painful for us in refugee camps".
The camps lack essential services such as electricity and water.
Another young tribal girl Saimai Reang said: "Our religion was not protected...we were deprived of our basic rights. Our children's education and health was badly affected. Those who were born in the relief camps did not see a good school."
The Reang tribals, locally called 'Bru', are categorised as one of the primitive tribes of India.
North Tripura District Magistrate and Collector Raval H. Kumar, who is overseeing rehabilitation, said the authorities are conducting identification process in each of the seven relief camps to make a register containing basic details.
"The state government has asked all the eight District Magistrates to identify suitable land for the rehabilitations of the 34,000 tribals across Tripura. The process of opening bank accounts of each refugee family has also started," Kumar told IANS.
Local non-tribal people too have expressed happiness over the solution to the refugee problem.
Tribal refugee leader Bruno Msha, one of the signatories of the January 16 agreement, said: "The government has saved the future of our children. Though poor, we can now live with our chiildren and relatives with dignity.”
Msha, General Secretary of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum, the apex body of the Reang tribal refugees, told IANS: "We are pained that we have to forget our ancestral homeland in Mizoram as we would be rebuilding our society and homes in Tripura. But we are happy we would not face any more uncertainty as the government has promised to stand by us."
Most political parties in Tripura and Mizoram have welcomed the decision to rehabilitate the Reang tribals.
Tripura Congress Acting President and senior lawyer Pijush Kanti Biswas said the Centre and the state government must be sincere in implementing the agreement.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said a six-member Joint Monitoring Committee headed by Home Ministry's Special Secretary (internal secretary) would be formed to oversee the implementation of the agreement, expected to be executed within the next six months.
Tribal leader and Tripura's royal family scion Pradyut Kishore Debbarman said the decision to rehabilitate the tribals would have far-reaching positive impact in the northeastern region.
According to the Jan. 16 agreement, each Reang tribal refugee family would get a 40-by-30-ft plot to construct house in Tripura, along with a fixed deposit of Rs 4 lakh for two years, Rs 1,50,000 would be given towards house building assistance, cash assistance of Rs 5,000 per month for two years and free ration for two years.
The agreement was signed by officials of Union Home Ministry, Tripura and Mizoram Chief Secretaries, six Reang tribal refugee leaders and a newly formed apolitical body Tiprasa headed by Pradyut Kishore Debbarman, former President of Tripura Pradesh Congress, who quit the party a few months back.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb his Mizoram counterpart Zoramthanga were present in the agreement signing ceremony in the Ministry of Home Affairs office in North Block.