Tribal refugees cast votes for Mizoram assembly polls

November 28th, 2008 - 3:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala/Aizawl, Nov 28 (IANS) Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in six northern Tripura camps, Friday exercised their franchise for the Mizoram assembly elections after special arrangements were made for them, an official said.Over 8,000 refugee voters Wednesday boycotted the assembly polls, refusing to exercise their franchise through postal ballots forcing the Election Commission of India (ECI) to make special arrangements with normal ballot papers.

“We decided to boycott the elections as only the names of candidates were written on the postal ballot papers with no symbols of party printed on the postal ballot papers,” said Elvis Chorkhy, president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF).

“The commission considered the request of the Reang tribal electors and ordered that for this general election the ballot papers should bear the symbol along with the name of the candidates,” an ECI notification said.

The ECI has set up facilitation centres to take votes in all the six camps in north Tripura and two camps in Mamit district of Mizoram. The voting has been conducted Friday and it would be held Saturday too.

The election to the 40-seat Mizoram assembly is scheduled Dec 2 and the results are expected Dec 8.

About 35,000 Reang tribal refugees are sheltered in six north Tripura camps for the past 11 years following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos. Of the 35,000 refugees, about 8,000 refugees were eligible to cast their votes.

“Voting was held in all the six north Tripura camps and two camps in Mamit district of Mizoram peacefully and no untoward incident was reported so far,” Debashish Sen, a special election observer of ECI, told IANS by phone from Kanchanpur refugee camp, 180 km north of Tripura’s capital Agartala.

The Reangs, also called Bru, are recognised as a primitive tribe and constitute about 10 percent of Mizoram’s one million population. Clashes with the Mizos in October 1997 forced them to flee to Tripura and other places.

The Reang tribals have fielded three candidates in the Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts in southern and eastern Mizoram.

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