Tribal migrants sheltered in Tripura to vote in Mizoram

Aizawl/Agartala, Nov 21 (IANS) | Publish Date: 11/21/2018 11:05:49 AM IST

The Election Commission would set up polling stations at Kanhmun, a village along the Mizoram-Tripura border, to facilitate voting by the tribal refugees, sheltered in Tripura for the past 21 years, official said here on Wednesday.

Among the over 35,000 Reang tribal immigrants, 11,232 men and women are eligible to cast their votes in the November 28 assembly polls for the 40-member Mizoram assembly.

The place of voting for the tribal refugee voters has become the most contentious issue in the run-up to the Mizoram Assembly polls, leading to replacement of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S.B. Shashank by a new IAS officer Ashish Kundra, two weeks before the polling.

The refugee leaders, however, said that they would discuss the Election Commission’s decision (to set up polling stations at Kanhmun village) on Friday and take the final decision whether to cast votes in the new locations.

“We have been asked by the Election Commission to set up 15 polling stations at compact locations at the border village Kanhmun inside Mizoram territory under Mamit district,” Mizoram’s Joint Chief Electoral Officer Zorammuana told IANS.

He said: “Tripura government would be requested to provide security and transportation to ferry the refugee voters to Kanhmun village from the six refugee camps. We would bear the expenditure of the vehicles.”

The new CEO Ashish Kundra has visited the Kanhmun village on Tuesday to assess the arrangements for the voting by the refugees.

Agitations had been launched by the powerful Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee (MNCC) demanding the setting up of polling stations in different districts of Mizoram for taking the votes of the refugees.

The MNCC, led by influential Young Mizo Association, citing Election Commission’s 2014 circular about casting of votes by the refugees, held a massive state-wide agitation to remove Shashank from the post of CEO after Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo was removed on an Election Commission order.

The former CEO (S.B. Shashank) in his report to the Election Commission had reportedly said that Chuaungo was creating obstacles in allowing the Reang tribals to vote in the November 28 polls.

Chuaungo, a native of the tribal dominated Mizoram, is a Gujarat-cadre IAS officer.

Refugee leader and General Secretary of the refugees’ apex body Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) Bruno Msha told IANS over phone from Kanchanpur that on Friday they would discuss the EC’s decision to set up polling stations at Kanhmun village in western Mizoram.

He also said that there are pregnant and lactating mothers, aged and ailing people among the 11,232 refugee voters, that’s why the MBDPF had demanded that the EC set up polling stations in the refugee camps.

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