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Living in Tripura camps, uncertainty over tribal migrants voting in Mizoram by-polls

Since the tribal migrants fled from Mizoram after ethnic troubles there and were sheltered in seven relief camps in northern Tripura 24 years ago, the EC and the Mizoram election department in collaboration with the Tripura government had set up special polling booths for them at a location along the Mizoram-Tripura border.

IANS | Aizawl/Agartala |

The Election Commission (EC) and the election authorities in Mizoram will not make any special arrangements, as was done in previous polls, to allow 663 voters among the 36,140 tribal migrants sheltered in Tripura, to cast their votes in the October 30 by-polls to the Tuirial assembly seat.

Mizoram’s Joint Chief Electoral Officer David L. Pachuau said that they have not yet received any instructions from the EC to make any special arrangements for the Reang tribal voters, sheltered in northern Tripura since 1997.

Pachuau told IANS: “If the Reang tribal voters want to cast their votes like other normal electorates they can do so in the two polling stations Zoding and Hortoki-2 under the Tuirial assembly constituency in Kolasib district which shares a border with Assam.”

Since the tribal migrants fled from Mizoram after ethnic troubles there and were sheltered in seven relief camps in northern Tripura 24 years ago, the EC and the Mizoram election department in collaboration with the Tripura government had set up special polling booths for them at a location along the Mizoram-Tripura border.

Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) General Secretary Bruno Msha said that they have yet to get any official communication from any authority about the Tuirial assembly by-elections.

“If the government arranges transportation the Reang voters would go to Mizoram from Tripura to cast their votes, otherwise it is not possible,” the refugee leader told IANS over phone.

The by-poll to the Tuirial assembly seat was necessitated following the death of sitting Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) legislator Andrew H. Thangliana.

According to Pachuau in all 18,582 voters including 9,095 female electorate are eligible to exercise their franchise in the by-poll. There are four candidates in the fray for the Tuirial by-poll. They are K, Laldawngliana of the ruling Mizo National Front, Laltlanmawia of the ZPM, Chalrosanga Ralte of the Congress and the BJP’s K. Laldinthara.

Several political parties and civil society bodies including the influential Young Mizo Association had strongly opposed any special arrangement for the Reang tribal migrants in Tripura before the by-elections and had been demanding deletion of their names from Mizoram’s electoral list as they would permanently settle in Tripura.

The Centre and the Tripura government have undertaken a Rs 1,200 crore project to rehabilitate 36,140 tribal immigrants in 13 locations across different districts of Tripura. The agreement came after Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb in November 2019 agreed to accept the Reang tribals, locally called “Bru”, and rehabilitate them in the state.

The Reang tribals would also be included as voters in Tripura as maintained in the agreement, which was signed in New Delhi between the Centre, Tripura and Mizoram governments on January 16 last year.

The Centre has announced a Rs 600 crore package for the settlement of the Reang tribals, recognised as a primitive tribe in Tripura. Of the package, Rs 150 lakh will be earmarked to the Tripura government for land acquisition and the rest would be spent on the welfare of these tribals.