Mizoram refugees in Tripura to get postal ballot

Agartala/Aizawl, Oct 19 (IANS) The Reang tribal refugees, lodged in seven makeshift camps in Tripura the past 16 years since they fled their villages in neighbouring Mizoram, would cast their votes through postal ballots in the Dec 4 assembly polls in Mizoram, officials said here Saturday.

"At least one facilitation centre would be set up in each of the seven refugee camps in north Tripura so that the eligible refugees could cast their votes for the Mizoram assembly polls," North Tripura's Kanchanpur sub-divisional Deputy Collector Anupam Chakraborty told IANS over phone.

He said: "The facilitation centres would be set up under the guidance of the Election Commission of India (ECI). The commission would supervise the work of these centres. Tripura government might provide the logistical support like security to these facilitation centres."

Director General of the ECI Ashish Srivastava, accompanied by Mizoram's Chief Electoral Officer Ashwini Kumar and other state officials last week visited the refugee camps in Northern Tripura to finalise the voting of the refugees.

Of the 37,625 Reang tribal refugees, locally known as 'Bru', living in the refugee camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar in North Tripura since 1997, only 11,311 were listed in Mizoram's electoral rolls.

The refugee leaders complained to Srivastava that there were many eligible voters in the camps who were not included in the voters' lists of Mizoram.

A Mizoram election department official told IANS: "Following the directives of the ECI, the officials of three Mizoram districts --Mamit, Lunglei and Kolasib -- would soon start a special drive in the refugee camps in Tripura to include names of eligible voters in the electoral rolls of the state."

After a two-year break, the repatriation of the tribal refugees resumed Sep 30, with around 600 people making up 90 families going back to their homes in western Mizoram.

The tribals fled their villages in Mizoram in October 1997 after ethnic clashes with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official. Many have since refused to return home from camps in Tripura unless their security is guaranteed with tripartite agreement.

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