The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has set a 40-day deadline for providing food vouchers to 7,000 Reang tribal children caught in a refugee tussle between Mizoram and Tripura.
A similar timeframe for submitting action taken report has been set vis-à-vis thousands of Adivasi and Muslim children languishing in relief camps in western Assam following ethnic riots in 1996.
A cloud of uncertainty has been hovering above these children ever since 32,000 Reangs or Brus fled ethnic riots in Mizoram in 1997 and took shelter in adjoining Tripura. The Mizoram government’s refusal to accommodate most of these refugees in the electoral rolls – Assembly elections in the State are due in less than a year – has stonewalled Tripura’s repatriation efforts.
“Whether in Assam or Tripura, these children are being denied nutrition, immunization, proper sanitation, health facilities and education. We have asked the governments to appoint nodal officers to specifically look into the children’s woes,” said NCPCR chairperson Shantha Sinha here on Wednesday. Most of the children, she added, were born in the refugee camps and are regarded as “nobody’s babies”.
Led by Sinha, a NCPCR team visited camps of displaced persons in Assam and Tripura from September 5. The Tripura trip followed complaints from the New Delhi-based Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Network that 7,000 refugee children were virtually starving after denial of ration cards. Tripura has since re-surveyed the camps and has pledged ration cards by October.
According to senior officials in Agartala, the refugee problem was weighing down heavily on Tripura. “Even intervention from the Union government as well as the National Human Rights Commission has failed to cut any ice,” a senior officer said.
The refugees, housed in six makeshift camps, have refused to budge until they are assured of safety back home in Mizoram. “The Mizoram government has played into the hands of parochial organizations like Young Mizo Association and Mizo Zirlai Pawl who call us outsiders,” said refugee leader Elvis Chorky.
Notably, Mizoram’s stand goes against the Election Commission of India’s guideline for inclusion of the refugees in the voters’ list. Some 18,000 voters living in the camps had earlier been given electoral photo identity cards.