Mizoram’s apex civil society organisation Young Mizo Association (YMA) on Wednesday reiterated it would obstruct and disrupt the Bru voters, if special polling booths are arranged for them in the upcoming bypoll to Tuirial assembly seat.
The Brus are now living in Tripura transit camps and are already allowed to re-settle in that state.
The bypoll to Tuirial, the assembly seat which was left vacant after the death of its incumbent MLA Andrew H. Thangliana of the Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) party, is scheduled to be held on October 30.
According to election officials, there are 663 Bru voters, who are already permitted to re-settle in Tripura, in Tuirial assembly constituency and they belong to two polling centres.
Central YMA president Vanlalruata said on Wednesday that the organisation has been demanding the deletion of names of the Bru voters, who have been already allowed to re-settle in Tripura after the agreement in January last year, from the state voter list.
He said that the Bru voters are now no more belong to Mizoram as they refused to return to the state during repatriation and have also been allowed to permanently resettle in Tripura.
“We strongly oppose any measure for arranging special polling booths for the Bru voters in the upcoming bypoll. However, we are okay if the Bru voters come to cast their votes in their respective polling stations in Mizoram on their own,” he said.
He said that the organization would stage an obstruction if special polling booths are arranged for the Bru voters.
In the past, the Bru voters in Tripura were allowed to exercise their franchise at polling booths specially arranged for the purpose of the Mizoram-Tripura border.
In 2014, civil society groups staged a 72-hour total shutdown opposing the Election Commission’s decision to allow Bru refugees to cast their votes through postal ballots from relief camps in North Tripura district, which forced the poll panel to defer the Lok Sabha elections in the tribal state.
Vanlalruata also urged the poll panel to immediately delete names of the unrepatriated Bru voters as nearly two years have passed since they were allowed to permanently resettle in Tripura.
He added that the organisation has also submitted petitions to the Election Commission of India (ECI) urging it to delete names of the Bru voters from Mizoram electoral roll.
Recently, political parties in the state had also urged the ECI to delete names of the unrepatriated Bru voters from the state voter list before the Tuirial bypoll.
Meanwhile, state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) P. Jawahar on Wednesday held a meeting with representatives of NGOs over the Bru voters and poll preparedness.
He informed the meeting that the petitions submitted by NGOs and political parties seeking deletion of names of the unrepatriated Bru voters have been forwarded to the ECI and a response is awaited.
He said that a response from ECI is likely to be received by next week.
The CEO also said that he has informed the poll panel about the stand of NGOs and political parties over Bru voters.
He has also informed about the distance between Tripura transit camps and polling stations in Mizoram, where the Bru voters can exercise their franchise in the upcoming bypoll.
Thousands of Brus had fled Mizoram and migrated to Tripura fearing ethnic tension triggered by the murder of a Mizo forest guard by the erstwhile Bru militants in 1997.
There have been at least nine attempts for repatriation of the Brus to Mizoram, with the latest round of repatriation organised between October and November, 2019.
According to the agreement signed among the Centre, governments of Mizoram and Tripura and representatives of Bru organisations on January 16 last year, more than 35,000 displaced Bru tribals, who failed to return to Mizoram during repatriation, would be permanently resettled in that state.
Nearly 12,000 Bru voters are still enrolled in the voter list as their resettlement in neihgbouring Tripura is under process.
At least four candidates are in the fray for the bypoll to Tuirial assembly seat in Kolasib district.
Kolasib deputy commissioner and district election officer H. Lalthlangliana said none of the candidates has withdrawn their candidature till Wednesday, the last date of withdrawal.
The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) has fielded party leader and public sector unit head K. Laldawngliana, while Congress fielded party leader and former legislator Chalrosanga Ralte.
Main opposition party Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) has fielded a newly recruited member and first-class contractor from Kolasib town Laltlanmawia and BJP tipped its party spokesperson and former student leader K. Laldinthara against three candidates.
Political analysts said that the upcoming bypoll will see a triangular fight among MNF, ZPM and Congress.
The final roll will be published on Thursday, according to election officials.