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Mizoram records 80% turnout, 56% Brus cast vote at special booths in state

The question of whether Bru refugees will vote at polling stations set up near the relief camps or travel to Mizoram had triggered a major controversy that led to removal of former CEO S B Shashank

Written by Abhishek Saha , Debraj Deb | Agartala, Guwahati |
November 29, 2018 12:56:08 am
Mizoram records 80% turnout, 56%  Brus cast vote at special booths in state Voters arrive at a polling station in Kanhmun, Mizoram, Wednesday. (PTI)

The Mizoram Assembly election witnessed about 80% polling on Wednesday, 3 percentage points less than the turnout in the 2013 state polls. The figure was expected to increase slightly in the final collation, officials said.
Serchhip district in central Mizoram witnessed the highest turnout at 81 per cent.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra told The Indian Express that more than 56 per cent voters among the displaced people of the Bru community, who are now living in relief camps in Tripura, reached the special booths set up at Kanhmun in Mamit district of Mizoram to cast their votes.

The question of whether Bru refugees will vote at polling stations set up near the relief camps or travel to Mizoram had triggered a major controversy that led to removal of former CEO S B Shashank. All political parties and NGOs had demanded that Brus come into Mizoram to cast their votes.

The preparations to transport the Bru voters to Kanhmun started on Tuesday night. As many as 61 buses and 541 smaller vehicles were lined up near the six Bru camps in Tripura North district to take 11,987 voters to Kanhmun.
The buses left at 5.30 am and by 6 am, 15 special booths at Kanhmun, about 55 km from Naisingpara refugee camp — headquarters of Bru leaders — had queues outside them. Heavy security had been deployed at the school where the polling was held.

Abhishek Kumar, a nodal officer appointed by the CEO, said polling was peaceful. However, Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF) president Apeto Sawibunga said the voters had to wait in the heat for hours. “There was no arrangement of drinking water. There were elderly people and women who came with infants. All of them had to wait in the sun,” Sawibunga said.

V Laldungliana, vice-president of MBDPF, said, “Voting away from the camps hampered turnout. The elderly, and lactating mothers couldn’t turn up,” he said. Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Coordination Committee (MBDPCC) president T Laldingliana, too, said polling at the camps would have been more convenient. “We had to travel all the way to this place. Some of the vehicles broke down midway and people were put into other vehicles,” Laldingliana said.

A splinter group of MBDPF, MBDPCC surfaced as a separate organisation after Bru people living in transit camps of Tripura rejected a repatriation agreement signed by the former with the Centre and governments of Tripura and Mizoram in June this year.

The Brus living in Tripura comprise voters registered with nine Assembly constituencies of Mizoram — Hacchek, Dampa, Mamit, Tuirial, Kolasib, Serlui, Lunglei South, Thorang and Tuipui West. Sadhanmani Reang of Khakchang refugee camp said, “Many governments came and went. They didn’t take us back to Mizoram. I don’t know if this government will do so. But I have come to cast my vote which is my right,” Sandhamani said.

Bruichakma Reang, 50, who lives at Naisingpara camp, said she wanted an autonomous district council for Brus in Mizoram and land for a house. Sandouliani Reang, 25, came with her daughter Mihimia Reang tied to her back. “I live at Naisingpara camp. We started at 3:20 am. I have voted in favour of BJP. I believe they will take me back to Mizoram,” Sandouliani said. Several others The Indian Express spoke to said they have voted for BJP hoping that they will help them return to Mizoram.

Asked what she wanted from the government that comes to power, Saitarung Reang, 60, who has lived in Khakchang refugee camp for 21 years, said she wanted a district council for Brus in Mizoram and a safe life in her village.
Over 37,000 people from the Bru community fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram in 1997 following ethnic clashes. They took shelter in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of North Tripura where they have lived ever since, barring 7,000 odd refugees who went back in the eight phases of government-sponsored repatriation.

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