Aizawl: Mizoram chief electoral officer Ashish Kundra on Friday appealed civil society groups in the state to understand with the Election Commission’s position to set up polling stations for Tripura Bru voters at Kanhmun village along the state border with Tripura and reconsider their decision to boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, citing such an action is not a democratic form of protest.
He also appealed them to allow peaceful elections at the village.
The NGO Coordination Committee, an umbrella body of all major civil societies and student associations, has threatened to boycott the ensuing Lok Sabha polls if special arrangement is not made to facilitate the Bru voters exercise their franchise at their respective polling stations in Mizoram.
Kundra told EastMojo that he met with the committee more than a month ago and appealed it to understand the position of the Election Commission and the impracticability of the demands to facilitate the Bru tribals cast their votes in their respective polling stations.
He said that both the state chief secretary Lalnunmawia Chuaungo and deputy commissioner of Aizawl district Vanlalngaihsaka, who is the returning officer of the Lok Sabha polls have also asked the civil society groups to understand the complex situation and hence review their decision.
“Later the committee intimated their view and stand point in writing rather than engaging with us,” he said.
Kundra said that in the state assembly polls held in November last year polling stations were set up for Bru voters at Kanhmun and to expect the Election commission to suddenly change to a new position from its stand point is not practical and realistic.
He said that though the election commission respected the NGOs demands and aspirations, it could not abruptly change its position in just three months period.
“Mizoram is one of the most democratic societies in the country. I would like to appeal to the NGOs to continue with those rich democratic traditions and partner with us in deepening democracy. They have helped us in the past and we look forward to their support and understanding this time around as well,” Kundra said, adding that the EC was firm on setting up polling stations at Kanhmun for which talks have been held with Tripura officials.
According to Kundra, there has been major change as far as Bru related electoral process was concerned.
He said that more than 1,000 people had turned up to Kanhmun for poll hearing during the special summary revision held recently, which was a major departure from previous practices as in the past election officials used to go to relief camps in Tripura to conduct public hearing and collect applications.
Kundra said that along with some officials, he visited the refugee camps last time during which the Bru voters demanded that they should be allowed to cast their votes in their respective camps.
The Bru voters shared their experience in the past elections in Mizoram that they were treated badly and some violence happened during polling, he said.
Kundra also expressed apprehension that the Bru leaders were creating fear psychosis among the majority Brus that they will be ill treated if they go to Mizoram. “We gave assurance to them that they will be taken care of at Kanhmun, where the civil societies and the local people are friendly,” he said.
According to Kundra, more than 6,000 Bru people casted their votes at Kanhmun in the state assembly polls last year.
The NGO Coordination committee was firm on its stance that the Bru voters should cast their votes in their respective polling stations.
The committee chairman Vanlalruata told this correspondent that they will convene a meeting on Saturday to decide the future course of action.