“The Reang tribal refugees are willing to return their homes in Mizoram. The future of the thousands of their children in refugee camps is being ruined,” he told reporters.
Criticising both the Mizoram government and the centre for the stalemate in repatriating the refugees, he said: “Though the tribals have been languishing in the camps for more than 14 years, no serious positive steps were taken by the centre or the Mizoram government to end the uncertainity of their lives.”
Sarkar was talking to mediapersons after a cabinet meeting which sanctioned Rs.1 lakh to each of the families of those who died in a devastating fire at a refugee camp March 19.
According to officials, at least 17 people, including five children and nine women, were burnt to death when the fire ravaged north Tripura’s Naishing Para Reang refugee camp, where over 15,000 tribal inmates have been sheltered since 1997 after ethnic clashes in western Mizoram.
More than 20 people suffered burn injuries and over 2,500 huts, made of bamboo, weeds and polythene sheets, were reduced to ashes in the camp, some 165 km north of here. The affected include 1,400 children.
Mizoram Chief Secretary Pu Van Hela Pachuau Tuesday talked to his Tripura counterpart Sanjoy Kumar Panda and inquired about the incident, the chief minister said.
“Panda asked Pachuau to take immediate steps to take back the refugees as the long stay of the tribals in north Tripura creats serious socio-economic problems,” Sarkar said.
The Tripura government has also ordered a magisterial inquiry into the fire. “North Tripura District Magistrate and Collector Soumya Gupta would inquire into the incident,” said Sarkar, who visited the camp Sunday.
“Cooked food is being provided to all the affected people till they set up their huts in the mountainous area,” an official said.
Several medical teams have been camping in the area since Saturday to provide medical aid to the victims.
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 Reangs are a very primitive tribal group among the tribals in the northeast region of India, comprising eight states. The tribals constitute 26.93 percent of the northeast’s total population of over 3.8 crore (2001 census).