GUWAHATI: An anti-corruption watchdog-turned-political party in Mizoram will challenge a notification of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the high court that declared Bru (Reang) refugees as “ordinary residents” of Mizoram.
The party, People’s Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram (PRISM), is currently on a signature campaign to mobilize public opinions against the ECI notification.
PRISM president Vanlalruata said the Brus of western Mizoram had “migrated” to Tripura in 1998. In the Mizoram elections of that year as well as that of 2003, they did not take part in voting. However, the ECI declared them as ordinary residents of Mizoram ahead of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, he said.
“In the notification, the ECI had said they were given status in analogy to Kashmiri pundits. We thought this is illegal. The ECI is not the competent authority to declare any section as ordinary residents,” Vanlalruata said.
He said the Kashmiri pundits were declared as ordinary residents of Kashmir irrespective of the places of their settlement in the country.
“It was based on the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of People’s Act and not the Representation of People’s Act. We thought the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of People’s Act cannot be applied in Mizoram,” the PRISM president argued.
He added that as citizens of India, people could reside in any part of the country.
“If they (Brus) are living in Tripura, in our opinion, they will have their votes there. If and when they return, they will vote in Mizoram as they are the residents of the state. But as long as they are in Tripura, they will cast their votes in Tripura for candidates of that state,” Vanlalruata said.
Currently, there are over 30,000 Brus who are lodged in seven relief camps in Tripura. A process for their repatriation began sometime back but they set some pre-conditions. Over 40,000 Brus had fled Mizoram in 1998 in the wake of their clashes with the Mizos. Over the past few years, a few thousand of them returned to Mizoram.
From 2004, the Bru refugees took part in all Mizoram as well as Lok Sabha elections by voting at the relief camps in favour of Mizoram candidates. However, in the previous two elections, they were made to come to Kahnmun in Mizoram to exercise franchise. The ECI and Tripura government had made the arrangements for their travel.