ngo against bru voting outside mizoramAIZAWL, June 1: Influential civil societies of Mizoram have made a fresh representation to Central Government against Bru refugees voting in Mizoram elections from their relief camps in Tripura. On Wednesday, representatives of the State’s biggest civil societies – Young Mizo Association, Mizoram Upa Pawl (elder citizens’ association), Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (women’s organisation) and Mizo Zirlai Pawl (Mizo Students’ Association) – met Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary in charge of North East under Union Ministry of Home Affairs, in New Delhi and discussed the issue of Bru refugees. 

Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Mizo organisations had vehemently protested against Election Commission’s decision to allow Bru refugees to cast their votes from relief camps in North Tripura. They protested against the voting by Bru refugees on the ground that the latter had refused to return to Mizoram despite several attempts to repatriate them. They demanded that only those who had returned to Mizoram should be allowed to exercise their franchise. 

Despite the protest, Bru refugees were allowed to cast their votes through postal ballots in their relief camps. As the Mizoram Assembly elections are due later this year, the civil societies here are determined to have their demand fulfilled this time around. The NGOs have jointly demanded that all Bru refugees remaining in the relief camps be repatriated before State Assembly elections and the names of those refusing not willing to return be deleted from the electoral rolls. They also accused the Brus of leaving Mizoram on their own (in 1997 and 2009) and making lame excuses for failing to return during several repatriation programmes launched by Mizoram Government. 

The Mizo leaders said the issue of Bru refugees and their repatriation has been lingering for 20 years now. “We told the Home Ministry Joint Secretary that the Mizos wholeheartedly welcome the Bru refugees, who are bona fide citizens of Mizoram, to return to the State. But even if the Bru refugees are willing to return, their leaders with vested interests have prevented them from doing so. These leaders derailed the Government’s attempts to repatriate the refugees,” MZP president L Ramdinliana Renthlei said. The NGO leaders told the Home Ministry official that many attempts to repatriate the Bru refugees have failed so far as the Bru leaders made fresh demands every time the Government planned a repatriation drive. “The Bru leaders are making money from the relief camps. While they are getting richer, the refugees are nearly starving,” the Mizoram NGOs alleged. 

The Mizoram NGO leaders also informed the Home Ministry official that those refugees who have returned, feel at home in Mizoram and do not face any discrimination from the people or the State Government. “We made it clear to the Home Ministry that if the Bru refugees want to participate in the Mizoram elections, they must return home. Otherwise, they should no longer be allowed to exercise their franchise from Tripura,” the MZP president said about their representation to the Home Ministry. Satyendra Garg assured the Mizoram NGO leaders that he would forward their demand to the Election Commission of India and sort out the matter before the State Assembly elections.  - Assam Tribune

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