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Mizoram Elections: Amid Congress opposition to their voting rights, Bru refugee camps urge political parties to stay away

In 2013 and 2014, Bru refugees could vote in their camps in Tripura, which Congress govt is opposing now

An Apex body representing the Bru refugees from Mizoram living in Tripura has appealed to the political parties in Mizoram not to come for election campaigning. The election for the Mizoram Assembly election is scheduled for 28th November.

Vice president of Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) R Laldawngliana said that the community members were not keen on attending election campaign meetings by parties from Mizoram. “We do not welcome poll canvassing inside the camps. The members here are not looking forward to attending public meetings by the parties, just before the polls,” he said.

More than 30,000 people belonging to the Bru community from Mizoram are living in six refugee camps in neighbouring Tripura, for the last 21 years.

In October 1997, Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) militants had killed a forest official in Mizoram, which resulted in a revenge ethnic violence. Before this, some Mizo organisations were already claiming that Bru people are not indigenous to Mizoram and their names should be deleted from electoral rolls in the state. Following the murder of the forest officer, large-scale violence took place on Bru villages, where dozens of villages were burned down and many people were killed. Following this violence, a large number of Bru families fled to Tripura, who were given shelter in Kanchanpur and Panisagar areas in North Tripura.

Repatriation of Bru people to Mizoram was started in 2010, and around 1600 families were resettled in the state, but the process was stopped after Mizo organisations started protesting. The people in camps also expressed fear in going back. Since then, they are living in Tripura, with financial and other assistance from the central government. In 2013 assembly elections and 2014 Lok Sabha elections, refugees having their name in the electoral roll in Mizoram were able to vote from their camps in Tripura itself. The election commission had set up facilitation centers in Tripura, where the people could vote using postal ballots. Mizo organisations and the Congress government in the state had opposed this move by EC.

This year too, the Mizoram government has said that they will not allow the Bru people living in Tripura to vote. The govt has also opposed the revision of electoral roll for the Bru tribals. Mizoram home minister R. Lalzirliana has said that only those Bru people who have returned to Mizoram would be allowed to vote, and people living in Tripura would not be allowed to vote in Tripura. ON the other hand, the Election Commission has affirmed that the people will be allowed to vote. The EC is considering opening poll both at a border town in Mizoram for refugees.

This has made the situation very volatile. MBDPF thinks that if election campaign is done at refugee camps in Tripura, it may lead to law and order problems. They also don’t want the residents of the camps to get divided into party lines. That’s why they have asked the parties to stay away from the camps.

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