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EC defers Mizoram polls
72-hour shutdown called off

the trigger
the effect

Aizawl, April 8: The Election Commission has rescheduled the polling date for election to Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha seat and Hrangturzo Assembly bypoll from April 9 to April 11, following a statewide three-day shutdown called by influential community-based organisations in the state.

The bandh has been called by three major community-based organisations — Young Mizo Association, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (women’s organisation) and Mizoram Upa Pawl (senior citizens’ organisation) besides two students’ organisations — Mizo Zirlai Pawl and Mizo Students’ Union — in protest against exercise of right to franchise by Bru refugees lodged in Tripura relief camps.

Despite protests by the Mizo organisations, the poll panel allowed the Bru refugees to cast postal ballots in relief camps from April 1 to 3. Of the 35,000 refugees living in the relief camps, 11,243 are enrolled in Mizoram voter list.

About 71 per cent of the refugees cast their votes.

The bandh started yesterday from 5am and was called off at 1.30pm today, a few hours after the poll panel rescheduled the polling date and gave an assurance that the Bru refugees would not cast their votes from outside Mizoram in future elections.

“The Election Commission has decided that provision would be made during future Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections for exercise of franchise within the state of Mizoram by Bru voters living in Tripura and enrolled in the voter list of Mizoram,” the poll panel said in a letter to the state’s chief electoral officer.

Talking to reporters after calling off the bandh, leaders of the three organisations said the Mizoram government had also agreed to fulfil their demands to repatriate Bru refugees now lodged in six relief camps in North Tripura’s Kanchanpur subdivision within three months from May 16.

The Mizoram government also agreed that the names of refugees, including bona fide citizens of Mizoram who refuse to return to the state in the final repatriation exercise, would be deleted from Mizoram’s electoral rolls.

The bandh organisers’ demand for cancellation of votes cast by Bru refugees and conduct a fresh election within Mizoram, however, remained unfulfilled.

The three candidates from Mizoram also refused to accept the organisations’ proposal that they would not accept their election to the Lok Sabha if the Bru votes were counted and if the total votes polled in Mizoram do not exceed 50 per cent.“The political parties have earnestly appealed to us to call off the bandh and let the election go as planned. In the larger interest of the people, we have agreed to call off the bandh,” president of Young Mizo Association central committee, Lalbiakzuala, said.

The bandh was said to be the “most supported” in the history of Mizoram and the organisers thanked the people for their overwhelming support.

The Mizo organisations alleged that the Bru refugees refused to return to Mizoram during many repatriation attempts earlier, making “lame excuses”. They also held that the Bru relief camps serve as breeding grounds for Bru militants who had committed a number of crimes in Mizoram.

The bandh prevented movement of poll parties who were scheduled to leave the eight district headquarters yesterday and today.

There were no incidents of violence reported from any part of the state.

This is the third time that the Election Commission changed the polling date in Mizoram. The poll panel had advanced the polling date for state Assembly elections from December 4 to November 25 last year as the former clashed with an assembly of the largest church in Mizoram, the Presbyterian Synod.

In the 2008 Assembly polls, the commission had also deferred the polling date to December 2 from November 9 as the latter fell on a Sabbath, a holy day for Seventh Day Christians.