Bru refugees from Tripura casting their votes during the Mizoram assembly elections in November last year Credit: File image

Aizawl: Amid stiff opposition from civil society groups, the Election Commission of India (ECI) will set up 15 polling stations at Kanhmun village in Mizoram’s western most Mamit district along the state border with Tripura for Bru voters, lodged at six relief camps in North Tripura district.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference here on Monday, state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra said he received information from the Election Commission on Saturday regarding arrangement of special polling stations for Bru voters at Kanhmun village as was done during the assembly elections last year.

As per the information, 15 polling stations — nine for Mamit district and three each for Kolasib and Lunglei districts, would be set at the Mizoram-Tripura border village, he said. About 12,000 Bru voters from six relief camps in Tripura will exercise their franchise in the upcoming polls, he added.

Kundra said that he is in close contact with Tripura CEO regarding arrangement of transportation for the Bru voters. He said that he will send a team to Tripura to discuss about the arrangement.

Meanwhile NGO Coordination Committee, a conglomerate of major civil society and student organizations has threatened to boycott the polls unless special arrangement were made for Bru voters to felicitate them cast their votes in their respective polling stations in Mizoram.

Kundra said that Aizawl district deputy commission Lalngaihsaka, who is the returning officer of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls on Monday held a meeting with civil society groups during which the leaders told the returning officer that they were still opposed to setting up of special polling stations for Bru voters.

He said that though decent debate and discussion are part of democracy, to stop the democratic process by boycotting election is not healthy. He added that there are other means of expressing differences and stalling democratic process in any form is not going to serve anybody purpose.

Kundra appealed to the civil society groups to demonstrate the same role it had played in the last assembly election in strengthening democracy. “I appeal to the civil society groups to reconsider their decision and I am hopeful that in the larger interest of preserving and strengthening democracy in the state there will be reconsideration of the matter,” he said.

The CEO said that although the Bru voters, who are declared as notified class of voters, used to cast their votes through postal ballots in the previous elections, special arrangement has been made for them since last assembly elections as the EC has taken very conscious decision that the Bru community should vote within Mizoram.

The decision was made after consultation with the civil society, he added.

Kundra also said that asking the Bru voters to travel to far flung places of their respective polling stations from Tripura is not practicable as they have to go 2 days in advance.

Filing of nomination papers for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls began on Monday and randomization of EVMs is going on across the state. Kundra said that six companies of the Central paramilitary forces would be deployed in the state, who would be assisted by the state police.

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