|14 Reang children from Tripura & 4 from Assam stopped|
|By Sumir Karmakar|
Police said they stopped the boys, aged between six and 15 years, and three persons at Guwahati railway station. Trafficking rackets earlier took out many children from the region, so police are scrutinising their documents to ascertain if these boys were also being taken out illegally. One of the boys is visually impaired.
Based on a call to Childline's helpline number (1098), the joint team stopped them and brought them to a shelter home. "The three persons accompanying them told us that they were taking the children for religious and educational purposes. We are verifying whether they were being taken without the consent of their parents," superintendent of police, Assam CID, Violet Baruah, told The Telegraph .
Childline officials said they suspected it to be a child trafficking case as 14 of them are from Reang refugee camps in North Tripura. "Children from violence-affected areas in the Northeast were earlier rescued from trafficking rackets. These children are vulnerable groups as they are living in relief camps for years," coordinator of Childline, Guwahati, Nirmal Deka, said. "We are trying to speak to the children but they only speak their mother tongue," he said.
The other four boys hail from Hailakandi district in Barak Valley in Assam and speak Bengali.
Over 30,000 Reang or Bru refugees have been living in at least six camps in North Tripura district for more than 17 years.
Altogether 35,326 Reangs from neighbouring Mizoram had fled their homes in October 1997 following largescale violence there.
Displaced people comprise one of the most vulnerable targets for traffickers. Children, including minor girls from areas affected by ethnic violence in parts of the Northeast, have been rescued from states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and cities like Mumbai and Delhi. "Their parents may have been lured with the promise of good education in the ashram. As they are struggling for survival in the relief camps for years, their parents may have agreed," said a CID official.
Both the Centre and Tripura government have been trying to repatriate the Reangs to Mizoram but many refused to return fearing further violence. Their security concerns increased following fresh ethnic violence in Reang-dominated areas in Mizoram in 2009. They have also been complaining that the amount announced for their rehabilitation was insufficient.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to Tripura on February 13, met representatives of Reang refugees and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar to expedite their repatriation. Singh appealed to the Mizoram government to ensure their security in Mizoram.