Tripura helps fire-struck Mizoram tribal refugees

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 20, 2011 13:50 hrs

Agartala, March 20 (IANS) Mizo tribal refugees, whose entire relief camp in Tripura was gutted, making over 15,000 migrants homeless, Sunday started rebuilding their huts with the assistance of the Tripura government.

According to officials, at least 16 people, including four children and eight women, were Saturday burnt to death when a devastating fire ravaged the Naishing Para Reang refugee camp in north Tripura adjoining western Mizoram.

Local media reports and unofficial sources put the death toll at 25.

More than 20 people received burn injuries and over 2,500 huts, made of bamboo, weeds and polythene sheets were reduced to ashes in the camp, 165 km north of here.

Eight critically hurt people have been flown to the government hospital in Agartala, while others are being treated in local hospitals.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, accompanied by social welfare minister Bijita Nath and top officials Sunday visited the fire-ravaged refugee camp and talked to the affected tribals.

'Sarkar has asked the officials to provide all kinds of assistance, including foods and shelter, to the hapless people,' an official said.

'The chief minister has again asked the central and Mizoram government to repatriate the tribal refugees immediately and settle them in their villages in Mizoram,' an official release said.

The release quoting Sarkar said: 'The Tripura government on a number of occasions had asked the central and the Mizoram governments to send the refugees to their villages, but no positive steps have been taken yet.'

The New Delhi-based rights group Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), which is mediating the much-awaited repatriation and resettlement of the displaced tribals, has demanded adequate relief to the affected people and that their gutted huts be rebuild.

ACHR director Suhas Chakma said in a statement: 'The union home ministry, Tripura and Mizoram governments must provide adequate relief and health services to the affected people.'

The fire devastated the Naishing Para refugee camp, which is the biggest camp among six camps and home of around 15,000 refugees belonging to the Reang tribe -- northeast India's most primitive tribe among the tribals.

In March last year too, about 1,800 refugees became homeless after fire razed entire Reang refugee camp at Hamshapara, near the Naishing Para camp, that gutted Saturday.

Over 34,000 Reang tribals, locally called Bru, have been living in six camps in Kanchanpur since 1997. They fled western Mizoram after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos following the killing of a Mizo forest official.

The Tripura government has been repeatedly asking its Mizoram counterpart and the central government to take urgent steps to repatriate the Reang tribal refugees, who have been in the state for 14 years.

The Mizoram government, on its part, cites non-availability of funds from New Delhi as one of the key reasons for not taking back the displaced people.

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