AIZAWL: An umbrella organisation of the thousands of Bru refugees living in Tripura has appealed to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora to set up polling stations for the Lok Sabha election in their relief camps.
Many of the refugees could not vote during the election to the Mizoram assembly held on November 28 last as polling stations for them was erected 70 kilometres away near the state border, the organisation said in a letter to Arora.
Around 35,000 Bru refugees living in six relief camps at Kanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura district are originally from Mizoram.
Elderly and ailing people, pregnant women and even many able-bodied persons could not vote as they had to travel 70 km by vehicles to reach Kanhmun village to vote, leading to the low poll percentage at those temporary polling stations, MBDPF president A Sawibunga, vice-president R Laldawngliana and general secretary Bruno Msha said in the letter.
The state election department had set up 15 temporary polling stations at Mizoram-Tripura border village of Kanhmun to facilitate over 12,000 Bru voters lodged in the relief camps to cast their votes.
The letter submitted to Arora in Delhi on Tuesday also claimed that the Bru voters were provided lunch at the polling stations only after casting their votes, leaving many of them extremely hungry while standing in the queue to exercise their franchise.
The MBDPF also claimed that no revision of voters' lists has been conducted in the relief camps. They appealed to Arora to give directions to the state election department to expedite the conduct of electoral roll revision in the relief camps.
The Mizoram election department had conducted a revision of voters lists of Bru refugees in their camps before the repatriation last year, despite opposition from the civil societies.
However, enlistment forms duly filled in by inmates of the relief camps were stolen at the election office of Mizoram's Mamit district on August 23, two days before the month-long repatriation of Bru families from Tripura to Mizoram was to start from August 25.
However, out of 5,000 odd refugee families, only 150 members of 42 families returned to Mizoram during the exercise. Thousands of Bru refugees from Mizoram fled to Tripura during ethnic violence in 1997.
The clashes broke out after a forest official was killed by Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) militants. The Centre, in association with the governments of Mizoram and Tripura, was repatriating the displaced Brus in phases.
Though several Bru families have returned to Mizoram over the years, many refused to leave Tripura citing security reasons and inadequate package.