Assembly elections: Bru refugees to cast vote in Mizoram’s Mamit district

Former CEO SB Shashank was removed from his post in Mizoram after protests by several Mizo groups and political parties.

After all the controversy surrounding the Mizoram Assembly polls, that led to the removal of Chief Election Officer S B Shashank by the Election Commission on November 15 due to his support for the voting rights of Bru refugees, the ECI has finally allowed Bru refugees to cast their votes in Mizoram polls.

The polling for the Bru refugees, currently lodged in six relief camps of Tripura, will be held at the inter-state border village of Kanhmun in Mamit district of Mizoram. As told by an officer in the CEO office, “We have been informed by the Election Commissionthat the polling for the Brus must be arranged at Kanhmun village inside Mizoram territory. We have started our preparations for that.”

“In the last three years, there was no revision of electoral rolls. This time we did that. The Bru refugees are registered in nine assembly constituencies and we will place different voting machines accordingly at the special booth in the village,” the officer said. “To smoothly carry out the entire exercise, we’ll take help from our counterpart in Tripura,” he added.

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According to the final electoral roll published on September 27 this year, Mizoram has 7,68,181 voters.

“The Election Commission has issued necessary instructions in this regard and voting for people from North Tripura will take place in the 15 polling stations,” Chief Electoral Officer Ashish Kundra said.

Bru organisations will be holding meetings to decide whether to participate in the polls. L Laldingliana, president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Coordination Committee said they wanted the old system of voting in the refugee camps to continue as voting turnout would be low if people are made to travel.

“If we have to come to an interstate polling station, transportation and food have to be arranged. All the people cannot vacate the relief camps, so some kind of shift arrangement or voting over two-three days has to be done,” he said.

Bru people had escaped from Mizoram following large-scale violence against them in 1997. Mizo organisations and the Congress government have been opposing the voting rights of Bru refugees. Former CEO S B Shashank had been accused of having a pro-Bru stand. The Mizo organisations were demanding that only the 1600 or so Brus who have repatriated to Mizoram should get voting rights in Mizoram and the rest of the refugees should vote as residents of Tripura.
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