Political parties, voluntary organisations and student unions in Mizoram have passed a resolution condemning the Election Commission of India’s recent direction to conduct summary electoral roll revisions in the Bru relief camps of Tripura. Monday’s resolution also took exception to claim forms being sent to relief camp leaders at a time the Mizoram government says it has officially registered its protest against the ECI’s directive before the poll body as well as the Union Home Ministry.
“We also condemn the fact that these forms have been sent to the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) and not to designated officials of the election machinery. This does not appear to be in line with the normal functioning of the government,” the resolution also said.
Monday’s meeting included representatives from three of Mizoram’s largest voluntary organisations, two main student unions and representatives from the state’s major political parties, including state units of the national parties such as the Congress and the BJP as well as those from home-grown parties such as the MNF, MPC and ZNP.
Political party representatives said in the meeting that dispatching claim forms to the MBDPF might make the process open to “manipulation”, while voluntary organisation leaders said such a move is unheard of within Mizoram and non-government bodies have never been entrusted with such forms and that only designated officials have been charged with keeping, distributing and collecting them once they are filled up.
Peeved with the ECI’s directive, Mizo groups have accused the poll body of being “brazenly biased” towards the Bru community and of breaching an earlier agreement in which the government has said it will take steps to not conduct polling for elections in Mizoram within the relief camps.
Tens of thousands of Bru tribals left Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic conflict with the Mizos. They have lived in six relief camps in Tripura since, and a majority have apparently heeded camp leaders’ diktat and refused to return to Mizoram in spite of a repatriation process that has been going on since 2010.
Mizo groups contend that the Brus who refuse to return should not be allowed to vote for elections in Mizoram since they have not lived in Mizoram for the past 18 years and have chosen not to return. Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana also said recently those who have refused to return might as well stay permanently in Tripura.
Bru leaders in the camps have meanwhile argued it is their fundamental right to vote since they are citizens of the country.
MBDPF president A Sawibunga meanwhile said over phone from Naisingpara relief camp that the claim forms (particularly forms 6, 7 and 8) for the electoral roll revision reached the relief camps from Mizoram last week and that “literate and dependable” residents of the six relief camps have been asked to fill up these forms with names of those who have attained the voting age.
“The process is going on now and we want to finish it as soon as possible since the deadline for submitting claims is mid-October. If there is a shortage of forms, which seems likely, then we will make photocopies and use those,” Sawibunga said.
Asked why the MBDPF and not designated officials have been charged with the claim forms in the relief camps, a senior official who is part of the election machinery said officials in the three districts in whose rolls relief camp residents are registered have only followed instructions from the Election Directorate in Aizawl.
The same process had been followed, the official said, in an earlier summary roll revision undertaken in the relief camps a few years ago.