EastMojo
www.eastmojo.com
Bru refugees from Tripura casting their votes during the Mizoram assembly elections in November last year
Bru refugees from Tripura casting their votes during the Mizoram assembly elections in November last year|File image
NEWS

Mizoram: Joint NGO panel threatens to boycott Lok Sabha elections

NGO Coordination Committee, a conglomerate of civil societies and students’ associations, expresses stiff opposition to setting up of special polling stations for Bru voters from Tripura

Henry L Khojol

Aizawl: Expressing its stiff opposition to setting up of special polling stations for Bru voters from Tripura, Mizoram NGO Co-Ordination Committee, a conglomerate of all major civil societies and students associations, on Thursday threatened to boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the state, if arrangement is not made to facilitate the Bru voters exercise their franchise in their respective polling stations in Mizoram.

Election to lone Lok Sabha seat will be held on April 11.

The committee president Vanlalruata said the coordination committee strongly appeals the Election Commission and concerned officials to facilitate the Bru voters lodging at relief camps in Tripura to cast their votes in their respective polling stations inside Mizoram if they are going to exercise franchise in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

He said that the meeting of the Co-Ordination committee on Wednesday agreed to take measure to ensure that the Lok Sabha election is not held in Mizoram if the Election Commission fails to make special arrangement to facilitate the Bru tribal to cast their vote in their respective polling stations in Mizoram.

He further said that the committee is also strongly against setting up of special polling stations for the Bru voters either in relief camps or Kanhmun village along the Mizoram-Tripura border.

He alleged that the Bru tribals refused to return to Mizoram despite repeated appeals and reparation attempts.

In 2014, civil society groups staged a 72-hour total shutdown opposing the Election Commission’s decision to allow Bru refugees to cast their votes through postal ballots from relief camps in North Tripura district, which forced the poll panel to defer the Lok Sabha elections in the tribal state.

About 35,000 Bru refugees are still camping at six relief camps in Tripura since they fled Mizoram following ethnic tension in 1997. The Brus are concentrated mainly in nine assembly constituencies in Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib district.

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.

State chief electoral officer (CEO) said that he has not received confirmation from the Election Commission about setting up of special polling stations for the Brus till date. He added that he will convene a meeting with civil society groups to see their view point.

Meanwhile, Mizoram Bru Displaced People's Forum (MBDPF) president A Sawibunga told EastMojo that they want the poll panel to allow the displaced Brus to cast their votes through postal ballots from relief camps, like it was in previous elections.

He argued that many voters especially senior citizens will face inconvenience in transportation and fooding as well as security arrangement if they are forced to exercise their franchise in their respective area in Mizoram. He said that many voters faced fooding problem and could not vote in the last state assembly due to poor arrangement.

The Bru leader further said that they will appeal the EC to arrange special polling stations at relief camps.