AIZAWL: It will be homecoming, albeit for a few hours, for over 12,000 Brus (Reangs), lodged in six relief camps in Tripura, when they travel up to Mizoram on November 28 to cast their vote.
Twenty-one years ago, some 40,000 Brus had fled Mizoram in the wake of their clashes with the Mizos. Ever since, they had cast their votes in every Mizoram election at the relief camps in the presence of officials of Mizoram’s election department. This year, however, in the face of pressure from the Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee (MNCC), which is a conglomerate of some influential Mizo civil society organisations, the Election Commission (EC) decided that the refugees have to come to Mizoram to exercise their franchise.
The MNCC had been persistent in its demand that the refugees must cast their votes inside Mizoram and not elsewhere.
Of the over 32,000 refugees lodged in the relief camps, there are 12,014 voters – 9,149 of them from Mamit, 1,940 from Kolasib and 925 from Lunglei, all are districts in Mizoram. The Brus are in a large majority in Mamit.
They will cast their votes at 15 polling stations at a playground at Kahnmun in Mamit. The votes will be cast in favour of candidates in nine constituencies. The nearest relief camp is two kilometers away from Kahnmun; the farthest being at a distance of 57 km.
Mizoram’s newly-appointed chief electoral officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra said the Tripura government would make necessary arrangements for the refugee voters’ transport to Mizoram on the polling day on November 28. Voting at Kahnmun will begin at 7 am and continue till 3 pm, he said.
“I visited a relief camp yesterday (Tuesday) and discussed the issue of their (refugees’) participation in voting in the presence of officials of Tripura government. There is some planning which needs to be done meticulously,” Kundra said.
He said the Bru “leadership” wanted voting at the relief camps. “I said people who are here (Tripura relief camps) will stand to lose if they don’t vote (in Mizoram),” the CEO said.
Meanwhile, the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Coordination Committee (MBDPCC) said they would soon decide on their participation in voting.
“We have no idea about the EC’s decision on our voting in Mizoram. We wanted it here. We will take a call in next two days on whether or not to visit Mizoram,” Laldingliana Reang told TNIE.
The Brus, and also the Chakmas, are a mix of Hindus and Christians. The BJP has set its sights on the nine seats in Bru-Chakma areas to make an entry into Mizoram, the last Congress-ruled state of the Northeast.