Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla has asked Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami to plead with the Election Commission of India, or ECI, on the state’s behalf to remove from the state’s electoral rolls those internally displaced Brus who have “refused” to return home to Mizoram from Tripura in spite of an ongoing repatriation process.
Disenfranchisement of more than 10,000 Brus, who continue to vote for state and parliamentary elections in Mizoram from within six relief camps in Tripura through postal ballots, had been part of an agreement between the ECI and Mizo groups ahead of the calling-off of a statewide bandh that forced the postponement of the recent Lok Sabha elections in Mizoram.
Only about 1500 displaced Bru families have returned home since the repatriation process began in 2010 and more than 4000 families continue into live in the relief camps in Tripura in spite of the Tripura government stating several times, most recently through MP Jitendra Choudhury in the Lok Sabha, that these displaced people should return home.
Community leaders in the relief camps have meanwhile been demanding the enhancement of the repatriation package and have in the past boycotted the repatriation process, sometimes creating roadblocks to prevent those families who want to return home from the camps from leaving for Mizoram in a bid to show unity among those living there.
Repatriated Bru leaders who now live in Mizoram meanwhile describe life in the relief camps as extremely difficult due to lack of school and health facilities as well as farmland and that the rations-based economy there is controlled by a small group of moneylenders and semi-officials in the camps who receive these from the government.
Brus had fled Mizoram en-masse following ethnic violence triggered by the killing of a Mizo official by Bru militants back in 1997, around the same time Bru leaders began demanding a separate autonomous tribal district for themselves. The autonomy demand had already created ethnic tensions as Mizo groups strongly opposed it.
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