Aizawl: A day after civil society groups in Mizoram called a boycott on coming Lok Sabha polls with a statewide indefinite strike starting from April 8, Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra on Tuesday appealed to the group to reverse their decision at the larger interest of democracy.
He also called upon people of Mizoram in general and civil society groups in particular to keep alive the hospitality and goodwill that they have shown to the Bru people from Tripura in the past.
On Monday, NGO Coordination Committee, a conglomerate of major civil societies and students association had called indefinite strike across the state commencing from April 8 to protest against the Election Commission’s decision to set up 15 exclusive polling stations at Kanhmun village on the Mizoram-Tripura border for 12,081 Bru voters lodged at six relief camps in Tripura.
The committee has been demanding that special arrangements be made to facilitate the Bru voters, who are residents of Mizoram, to cast their votes in their respective polling stations in Mizoram.
Kundra said that when over 6,000 Bru voters came to Kanhmun to cast their votes in the state assembly elections last year, they were shown good hospitality by Mizo civil societies by providing them food and shelter.
For second time around when thousand of Bru came to Kanhmun for roll registration, the Election Commission did not make any special security arrangement but the Bru returned to their camps safely.
“The Bru people have gone to their camps with a sentiment that they are treated well by the Mizos. And I personally feel that this is not a good time to spoil the goodwill that the Mizo people have earned in the minds of the majority Brus,” Kundra said while addressing a press conference here on Tuesday.
He said that hardening the situation by calling a boycott on election would only have adverse impact on repartition of the Bru people from Tripura.
Kundra said that he admired the tradition of the Mizo society that strongly based on democratic principle and asked the people to deepen democracy.
Urging the Mizo people to stick to the tradition, he said, “Let us make an environment that will make the Bru people feel comfortable and safe and also give confidence to come back to Mizoram. Let us not do anything that will prejudice the larger interest of democracy.”
Kundra said exercising franchise is not only the constitutional rights, but also the national duty of every citizens. He appealed to the people of the state for ensuring peaceful election so that all the citizens cast their votes to have representation in the parliament, who will speak the voice and aspiration of Mizoram.
He said that the move to boycott election as such will surely go against the tradition of democracy.
The CEO said that the election department was trying its level best to reach out to all stakeholders on the circumstance and arrangement that have been made for the Bru voters. He said that they have earlier met the NGOs and Church leaders on the matter.
He said that the NGOs had earlier demanded deletion of names of over 8,000 Bru voters, which was rejected by the Election Commission on the ground that mass deletion is not possible in election year.
Citing that the Election Commission did not make any commitment that the Bru voters should cast their votes in their respective polling stations in Mizoram, Kundra said in the last assembly elections, an agreement was reached between the NGOs and EC according to which polling for Bru voters should be held in Mizoram.
He said that Kanhmun village on the Mizoram-Assam border was selected as the most convenient location for the Bru voters to cast their votes in order to maintain balance and ease voters.
He also said that political problem of repatriation of Bru tribal should not be addressed through election.
Sources said that some areas especially Siaha and Lawngtlai districts in southern part of the state, where the NGOs don’t have control, did not totally support the boycott call.
Moreover, there are more than 4,400 service voters, to whom postal ballots have been already issued and over 400 votes casted, according to election officials. Asked if the casted votes will be counted, Kundra said going by the past elections in some parts of the country there is possibility of counting the casted votes. “There has been an instance in Jammu and Kashmir where only 10 per cent of the total voters elected their representatives in the past,” he said.
The NGO Coordination Committee on Tuesday sent a delegation to Siaha and Lawngtlai and held meeting with leaders of Young Lai Association (YLA), the largest civil body in Lai dominated Lawngtlai district. The NGO delegation will also hold a meeting with Mara NGO on Wednesday.
Election to the lone Lok Sabha seat and assembly by-election to Aizawl West-I seat are due on April 11. Counting will be held along with rest of the country on May 23.