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Mizoram CM discusses refugee issue with home secretary

Posted on Aug 08 2014 | IANS

Aizawl, Aug 8 : The Mizoram government has asked the union home ministry to take up with the Election Commission the issue of deleting from the electoral lists the names of those refugees who are unwilling to leave Tripura camps and return to Mizoram, an official said Friday.

"Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla Wednesday held a meeting with Home Secretary Anil Goswami in New Delhi and requested him to take action over deleting the names of those refugees who are not willing to return to Mizoram," an official told IANS here.

He said: "The chief minister asked the home secretary to approach the Election Commission to take appropriate steps to remove the names of refugees from the Mizoram electoral rolls who are reluctant to return within a specific period."

"Lal Thanhawla apprised Goswami that while the state government has done its best to take back the refugees from Tripura camps, the state government's efforts have often been opposed by a section of refugee leaders," the official said.

The home secretary told the chief minister that a committee would soon visit Tripura refugee camps to take note of the situation, the official said.

About 35,000 Reang tribals are staying in seven camps in Tripura for the past 17 years after they fled their villages in Mizoram following clashes with the Mizos.

The Election Commission in April made arrangements for the refugees in six of the seven relief camps to cast their votes for the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram through postal ballots.

The poll panel decision angered some NGOs and students groups. They called for a three-day shutdown and an election boycott in Mizoram. The NGOs and the students groups demanded that the refugees must return to their villages and cast their votes in Mizoram.

The Election Commission later deferred the April 9 Lok Sabha polls in Mizoram to April 11 due to the stir.

The Tripura government has been repeatedly asking the central government to take steps to repatriate the 35,000 tribal refugees to Mizoram.

Swapan Saha, Tripura's relief and revenue department secretary said: "The home ministry has constituted a seven-member committee headed by Rajiv Gauba, the ministry's additional secretary, to oversee the condition of the refugees in the Tripura camps."

The central committee, comprising officials of the human resource development ministry, social justice and empowerment ministry, Tripura government and representatives of three NGOs from New Delhi, West Bengal and Assam, will submit its report to the home ministry and the Tripura High Court by Sep 12.

The central team was constituted following a directive from the Tripura High Court which passed an order June 24 after a lawyer filed a petition.

"The central team will visit the refugee camps before Aug 31 and supervise the sanitation, health, educational and other facilities there," Saha added.

Only about 5,000 Reang tribal refugees have returned to their homes in the past three-and-a-half years.

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