Tribal refugees decline postal ballot in Mizoram polls

November 26th, 2008 - 10:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala/Aizawl, Nov 26 (IANS) Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in six camps in northern Tripura, Wednesday boycotted the Mizoram assembly polls by refusing to exercise their franchise through postal ballots. “Only the names of candidates were written on the ballot papers, no symbols of party and candidates were printed and as most of the tribal refugees were illiterate they could not choose their preferred candidates,” said Elvis Chorkhy, president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum (MBDPF).

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 through postal ballot Wednesday and Thursday.

“As per the guidelines of ECI (Election Commission of India), party symbols were not printed on the postal ballot papers and in this case also a similar practise was followed,” Debashish Sen, an election observer, told IANS by telephone from Kanchanpur refugee camps, 180 km north of Tripura capital Agartala.

“I have communicated the matter to the ECI and am also holding meetings with the refugee leaders and awaiting the decision of the poll panel,” Sen added.

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 so they can have their representatives in the assembly.

The total numbers of voters among the Reang tribal refugees who received the Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) are 6,479, while the total number of refugees included in the electoral lists are 8,061 as per the draft electoral rolls of 2008.

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