Bru refugees to vote in Mizoram's Mamit district: Official

Bru refugees (File photo). Photograph:( PTI )

PTI Aizawl, Mizoram, India Nov 21, 2018, 11.06 PM (IST)

The Election Commission has decided to hold polling for Bru refugees in Mizoram's Mamit district, even as the leaders of the tribal community maintained that they fear for their safety in their home state.

The place of voting for 11,232 Bru voters, who are residing in neighbouring Tripura, has been a bone of contention, leading to the replacement of the then chief electoral officer, S B Shashank, less than two weeks ahead of the election to the 40-member House.

Shashank had been accused of facilitating voting by Bru voters in the relief camps of Tripura.

"We have been informed by the Election Commission that the polling for the Brus must be arranged at Kanhmun village inside Mizoram territory. We have started our preparations for that," an official in the CEO office told PTI.

Kanhmun is an interstate border village between Mizoram and Tripura.

A written order to this effect is likely to be received by Mizoram CEO Ashish Kundra in a day or two, the official said.

"In the last three years, there was no revision of electoral rolls. This time we did it. The Bru refugees are registered in nine Assembly seats and we'll place different voting machines accordingly at the special booth in the village," he said.

Kundra had on Tuesday visited Naisingpara -- the largest Bru camp in Tripura -- to meet the refugees and inform them about the EC's decision.

An election official, who accompanied the CEO to Tripura, said the Bru leaders claimed that the voter turnout from the community might be zero if the EC did not change its decision to hold polling in Kahnmun.

"Kundra tried explaining to them that the decision was taken by the Election Commission, but the Bru refugees said they fear for their lives in Mizoram.

They also cited various reasons, including bad-road condition, to justify their demand for polling-booth arrangement in the relief camps," he added.

The six camps of the Bru refugees are located between 2-10 km from the interstate border between Tripura and Mizoram.

The highest number of Brus has been registered in Mamit district, which has Hachhek, Dampa and Mamit seats, with 14 per cent of the total voters being refugees.

It is followed by Kolasib district, with 3.5 per cent of its total voters being Brus. The district has Tuirial, Kolasib and Serlui Assembly seats. In Lunglei district, less than one per cent of the total voters are Bru refugees.

Earlier this month, the Election Commission had removed Shashank as the state chief electoral officer, accepting the demands of civil society groups, NGOs, student organisations and political parties.

The agitators organised dharnas in front of the CEO's office against Shashank's reported move to facilitate voting by Bru voters in the relief camps of Tripura.

They demanded that the Brus, who had fled Mizoram following ethnic clashes in 1997, would have to come to the state to cast their votes as committed by the ECI in 2014.

Meanwhile, the NGO Coordination Committee -- an apex body of civil societies and students' organisations -- has urged the political parties to refrain from arranging transport for Bru voters on the polling day on November 28.

Story highlights

The Election Commission has decided to hold polling for Bru refugees in Mizoram's Mamit district, even as the leaders of the tribal community maintained that they fear for their safety in their home state.