Elections to the Mizoram Assembly in 2018: Bru refugees may have trouble voting

Bru refugees trapped in makeshift camps in northern Tripura will find it difficult to join the Mizoram electoral exercise due to strong protests from extremist social groups in Mizo.

The NGO Coordination Committee, a new forum, has organized mass protests mainly in the capital Aizawl, in Mizoram, to oppose any special provision providing for the right of refugees to exercise their right to vote in the polls. the Assembly of 28 November.

The protesters also demanded that the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S.B. Shashank was moved while he reportedly had a senior election-related state official remove him from the Electoral Commission.

The Mizoram government, led by Congress, also opposed the transfer, saying it had a political motivation.

Nearly 35,000 Brus, also called Reangs, are housed in six camps in Kanchanpur, in the northern district of Tripura. They entered Tripura in 1997 to escape ethnic unrest in Mizoram.

In previous elections to the Assembly and Lok Sabha in Mizoram, the Election Commission has made special arrangements for refugees to vote.

Polling stations were set up on the border between Tripura and Mizoram and the electoral office organized the transport of refugee voters.

A high-level European Commission team that visited Aizawl would have agreed not to set up polling stations either in camps or elsewhere. As a result, refugee voters will have to travel to two segments of the populated Reang assembly to vote.

Tripura government officials said they would provide all necessary assistance to refugee voters after receiving instructions from the electoral commission. However, no communication has been received from New Delhi so far, they added.

Refugees are reluctant to go to the depths of Mizoram on polling day. They have long called for a reintegration and rehabilitation exercise resisting the initiative of the union's Ministry of the Interior, citing the non-respect of security and political requirements.