Tribal refugees to play crucial role in Mizoram polls

November 19th, 2008 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Aizawl/Agartala, Nov 19 (IANS) About 35,000 Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in Tripura camps for the past 11 years following ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos, will play a crucial role in the Dec 2 assembly polls in Mizoram.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.

“We have fielded three candidates in the Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts in southern and eastern Mizoram to have our representatives in the assembly to ensure fulfilment of the hopes and aspiration of the Reang people,” said Elvis Chorkhy, president of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF).

“The total number 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 list are 8,061 as per the draft electoral rolls of 2008,” Lalhmingthanga, joint chief electoral officer, told reporters.

Chorkhy alleged that due to the conspiracy of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) more than 8,000 tribal refugees could not enrol their names in the voters list and were going to be deprived of the right to exercise their adult franchise.

Lalhmingthanga said: “The Election Commission of India (ECI) has not yet taken any decision to enroll about 7,800 more people in the electoral roll even though the issue has been referred to the commission.”

The poll panel is expected to make special arrangements for the refugees to cast their votes.

Top MNF, Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including BJP president Rajnath Singh, have visited the refugee camps in northern Tripura and Reang dominated areas in Mizoram and urged the tribals to caste their votes in favour of their candidates.

The BJP’s Tripura observer, Darshan Singh, has been camping in the refugees camps to ensure maximum number of tribals vote in favour of the party’s seven candidates.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has alleged that the Congress has been distributing money among the refugees to purchase their votes.

“The All India Congress Committee (AICC) has allocated Rs.3.2 million to buy the votes of tribal refugees and Tripura Pradesh Congress president Samir Ranjan Burman Monday visited the refugee camps along with the money,” a CPI-M spokesman told reporters in Agartala.

After 14 rounds of talks, the Mizoram government and the militant Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) signed an agreement in April 2005 to resolve the ethnic crisis, leading to the surrender of about 1,040 militants belonging to the BNLF and Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM).

Both the outfits had been fighting to set up an autonomous council for the Reang refugees.

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