Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana said on Tuesday that the state government has written to the Election Commission of India and the Union Home Ministry saying it is not inclined to follow the ECI’s direction to conduct a special summary revision of electoral rolls in the Bru relief camps of Tripura.
“We have asked the MHA and the ECI that the summary revision of electoral rolls is not conducted in the relief camps. The Brus have lived in Tripura for a generation and they have refused to come back even after so many years of us asking them to come back and conducting repatriation efforts to bring them back. Therefore they might as well stay there in Tripura,” Home MInister R Lalzirliana told The Indian Express.
Various Mizo groups including the community’s most influential community based organisations and student unions have voiced their opposition to the ECI’s direction, which comes at a time the Social Justice bench of the Supreme Court is hearing a case on the repatriation issue.
The central executive committee of the Young Mizo Association, the state’s largest voluntary organisation with members in virtually every Mizo household, meanwhile called an emergency meeting on Tuesday and decided to call a meeting of all major Mizo groups on Wednesday.
The committee decided to lay before this meeting a proposal to send delegates to the ECI offices in New Delhi to meet with officials there and voice their opposition to the poll body’s direction and also to work with various political parties to forge a united front.
Displaced Bru leaders A Sawibunga and Bruno Masha had earlier written to the ECI about a news report in the Mizoram Post, an English language daily, which quoted election officials as saying they have not received instructions to conduct summary revision of electoral rolls in the relief camps during an ongoing revision in the state of Mizoram.
The ECI forwarded the letter to Mizoram’s Election department with instructions that the department should conduct summary revision of rolls in the relief camps as well.
Tens of thousands of Bru tribals fled Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic violence with the Mizos. They have lived in six relief camps in Tripura since then, living on hand-outs with little avenues for employment, education or healthcare.
More than 1,600 families have however reported to authorities of their return to Mizoram since 2010, about two-thirds of them on their own and not through formal repatriation processes organised by the MHA, Mizoram and Tripura each year.
Thousands more have however continued to stay in the relief camps, partly because leaders in the camps have continuously rejected the repatriation package offered by the MHA, which includes almost Rs 1 lakh in cash, free rations for a year and land to build new houses in.
Their continued insistence on staying on in the camps has peeved Mizo groups who have protested that the Brus continue to have votes in Mizoram in spite of refusing to live in Mizoram for almost two decades. Several groups had called a popular bandh-call during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, forcing the ECI to change the dates.
The MHA, Triupura and Mizoram had subsequently agreed they would make a final attempt to repatriate the Brus (more than 11,000 adults with votes plus numerous minors) who continue to live in the camps, agreeing that those who still refuse to return would be struck off the rolls and further rations to them stopped.