Aizawl: Sticking to its earlier decision, NGO Coordination Committee, a conglomerate of major civil societies and student bodies in Mizoram, has called indefinite statewide strike commencing from April 8 to protest against the Election Commission’s decision to set up special polling stations for Tripura Bru voters at Kanhmun village on the Mizoram-Tripura border.
The committee has been demanding that special arrangement be made to facilitate Bru voters lodged at six relief camps in Tripura to cast their votes in their respective polling stations in Mizoram.
The committee had earlier threatened to boycott the Lok Sabha polls if special polling stations are set up at Kanhmun for Bru voters.
Election to the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram will be held simultaneously with assembly by-polls to Aizawl West-I seat on April 11.
The decision to boycott both the polls was taken at the meeting of NGO Coordination Committee at Central Young Mizo Association office here on Monday.
The committee chairman Vanlalruata said all polling officials would be prevented from proceeding towards their polling areas with EVMs.
He said that the meeting unanimously decided to stage indefinite strike across the state from April 8 to ensure that the demand to facilitate Bru voters cast their votes in their respective polling stations is met.
Vanlalruata said that the committee has strongly opposed to the Election Commission’s decision to set up special polling stations for Tripura Bru voters at Kanhmun.
“The committee is firm on its stance that the Bru people should be asked to cast their votes in their respective polling stations in Mizoram,” he said.
He said that they will re-consider their decision if the Election Commission give positive response before the strike.
The committee also asked all commercial vehicles and private vehicles hired by election commission not to venture out or letting the government to use vehicles for election related purposes and ferrying security forces.
The committee also strongly slammed the Bru people, who allegedly refused to return to Mizoram despite repeated appeals and repatriation attempts.
The NGO Coordination Committee is the most influential civil groups in the state. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it had also staged a 72-hour state-wide strike against the Election Commission’s decision to allow Bru voters to exercise their franchise in Tripura relief camps, which forced the poll panel to defer the polls.
Before the state assembly polls last year, the committee also staged massive protest across the state against the then state CEO SB Shashank over his alleged “pro Bru” stance, which forced the poll panel to remove the officer.
About 35,000 displaced Bru tribal are still camping at six relief camps in Tripura since they fled Mizoram following ethnic tension triggered by the murder of a Mizo forest guard by Bru militants in 1997.
The Brus are concentrated mainly in 9 assembly constituencies in Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib district.
According to officials, there are about 12,000 Bru voters lodged at relief camps Tripura.
In the state assembly polls held in November last year, 15 special polling stations were arranged at Kanhmun village where around 52 per cent of Bru voters casted their votes.
This time too, the EC decided to set up 15 polling stations for Bru voters at Kanhmun.
Terming the NGOs decision “unfortunate,” state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra said it is regrettable that the NGOs made decisions which prejudice the democracy.
He appealed to the civil society groups to re-consider their decision in the larger interest of democracy.
Speaking to EastMojo, Kundra said he will apprise the matter to Election Commission and take necessary action.
Terming the NGOs move “undemocratic,” he said boycotting election will not solve anybody purpose.
Kundra also expressed hope that Church leaders will soon convene meeting with the NGOs to reconsider their decision.
He had earlier appealed to the NGO Coordination Committee to understand with the Election Commission position and re-consider its decision.
Kundra had also said that the EC was not possible to suddenly change its stand point in just three month period.
Meanwhile, Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) General Secretary Bruno Msha told this correspondent that they unanimously accepted the EC’s decision to set up polling stations at Kanhmun though they had earlier demanded polling stations be set up at relief camps.
He said that many voters especially women and senior citizens will face problem to go to their respective polling stations in Mizoram from Tripura camp.
The Bru voters will face not only transportation and lodging problem, but also security problem, he added.