Assam tribal refugees in Mizoram live in misery
More than a hundred Hmar families had fled the North Cachar Hills district in southern Assam in 2003 after the majority Dimasas launched a violent campaign to evict them.india Updated: Nov 16, 2007 12:27 IST
Twelve-year-old Ropara was nervous as he recalled the nightmarish experience four years ago of having to flee Assam and take refuge in adjoining Mizoram after a bloody ethnic clash between the Hmar and Dimasa tribes.
More than a hundred Hmar families had fled the North Cachar Hills district in southern Assam in 2003 after the majority Dimasas launched a violent campaign to evict them. Thousands of people from both the tribes were displaced and more than 20 villages set ablaze in the conflict.
"My mother was carrying me on her back and running, my dad was carrying our luggage and my elder sister was crying all the way," Ropara said.
"Our neighbours too were running, I looked back and saw my village burning."
The family is now settled in a makeshift camp near Vairengte in northern Kolasib district of Mizoram - often dreaming of their home in Ngaiban village near Halflong, the headquarters of the North Cachar Hills district.
"There are times when I miss home, but to take the risk of going back is never an option for us, we don't want to risk our lives," Ropara's elder sister Mary Lalnunsiem said.
The Mizoram government provided relief in the initial months but has since stopped all aid. The 40-odd families now living there are left to fend for themselves.
"The Vairengte village council authorities sympathised with us as we are of the same ethnic stock. It is very difficult to make ends meet although we have started jhum (slash and burn cultivation) with the permission of the village council authorities," Lalnunsiem said.
Over the years some 60 families have left for their homes in Assam.
"There are no grants for these refugees from the central government. We are providing what we can," Lalthlangliana, a local magistrate, said.
Besides the 40 Hmar families on the outskirts of Vairengte, there are 100 families at Saipum village, 15 kms from Vairengte, and about 150 families in Kolasib town and adjoining Bilkhawthlir village.
First Published: Nov 16, 2007 12:24 IST