The polling booths for displaced Bru people will be set up at Kanhmun in Mizoram’s Mamit district adjoining Tripura, around a two-hour drive of 60 km from the relief camps where the community resides, a top state official said here on Friday.
Ashish Kundra, a 1996-batch IAS officer, who took over as Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) on Friday, told The Indian Express, “We are awaiting a final decision from the Election Commission but it is most likely that displaced Brus will cast their votes in Mizoram and the location will be Kanhmun, which lies on the border of Mizoram and Tripura.”
Kundra replaced S B Shashank after protests erupted in Mizoram seeking Shashank’s removal, free and fair polls and to ensure that Bru voters residing in camps in Tripura cast their votes inside Mizoram and not in the relief camps. On Friday, Kundra met political leaders as well as civil society activists to apprise them about the elections.
There are more than 11,000 Bru voters among the 30,000-odd Bru people living in camps in Tripura for the last 21 years after they were displaced following ethnic clashes. While Mizoram civil society groups said that casting of votes in Tripura’s camps could leave it open to manipulation, organisations representing displaced Bru people said that asking them to vote after travelling to their native villages — which might take 2-3 days to reach — would lead to a very low turnout. The decision, which Kundra announced on Friday, is seen as a bid to find a middle ground between the two opposing demands. Kundra said he had conveyed the imminent decision to civil society groups in Mizoram and they were “appreciative”.
Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) general secretary Bruno Msha told The Indian Express over phone from Tripura, “Voting in Kanhmun is better than going to interior villages. Still, there will be discussions among the community and only then we can say how many people will travel.”
Another senior state official said the votes of the displaced Bru voters are spread over 9 Assembly constituencies, and each constituency would have a separate set-up when the polling station is set up in Kanhmun.
Kundra said that Mizoram has a history of conducting free and fair elections in a peaceful manner, and is a role model for other states.