Agartala: Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in seven camps in Tripura for the past 17 years after fleeing from their villages in neighbouring Mizoram, yesterday began casting their votes through postal ballots for the Lok Sabha polls in the northeastern state, officials said.
Balloting for the lone Lok Sabha seat from Mizoram, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, is scheduled to be held in the second phase. “Tight security measures have been undertaken in six of the seven relief camps, where facilitation centers were set up to enable the eligible refugee voters to cast their votes by postal ballots,” Tripura Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Asutosh Jindal said.
“The ballotting would continue till Thursday. After that the Mizoram officials would take the postal ballot to the respective counting centres to count the votes on May 16,” Jindal said.
He added: “The facilitation centres have been set up under the guidance of the Election Commission of India (ECI). The commission has also appointed seven observers to supervise the electoral process of these centres. Tripura government has provided the logistical support like security to these facilitation centres.”
Seven officials from Mizoram have also come to the refugee camps to assist the electoral process. Of the over 36,000 Reang tribal refugees, locally known as “Bru”, living in the Kanchanpur and Panisagar refugee camps of Tripura for the past 17 years, about 11,500 are listed in Mizoram’s electoral rolls.
Five NGOs and youth organisations, led by the Young Mizo Association, organised protest rallies in Aizawl and other places of Mizoram last week demanding that the poll panel revoke its decision to take the refugees’ votes through postal ballot.
“We have sent a memorandum to the Election Commission conveying our protest... But it is yet to respond to it... We will continue our protest,” said Lalhmachhuana, President of Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP).