Following a representation by displaced Bru leaders, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has directed election officials in Mizoram to conduct a special summary revision of electoral rolls in the Bru relief camps of Tripura.
The move comes amidst an ongoing case in the Supreme Court where the Union Home Ministry, Mizoram and Tripura had earlier submitted their agreement that all displaced Brus who continue to refuse to return to Mizoram during an almost three-month-long repatriation process that concluded in August be struck off Mizoram’s electoral rolls. No displaced Bru had returned then.
Predictably, Mizo groups have voiced their opposition to the ECI’s move ordering a summary revision amidst the ongoing court case, with the Mizo Students’ Association or MZP, the State’s largest student body, saying it cannot ‘accept in any way the ECI’s brazen bias for the displaced Bru community who have refused to return to Mizoram in spite of numerous attempts to bring them home’.
Terming the ECI’s direction ‘contemptuous of the Mizo people,’ the MZP said it will ‘fully oppose the special summary revision’.
Displaced Bru leaders A Sawibunga and Bruno Masha had earlier written to the ECI about a news report in the Mizoram Post, an English language daily, that quoted election officials as saying they have not received instructions to conduct summary revision of electoral rolls in the relief camps during the ongoing revision in Mizoram.
The ECI forwarded the letter to Mizoram’s Election Department with instructions that the department should conduct summary revision of rolls in the relief camps as well.
Tens of thousands of Bru tribals had fled Mizoram in 1997 to neighbouring Tripura following ethnic violence with the Mizos. More than 1,600 families have however reported to authorities of their return to Mizoram since 2010, about two-thirds of them on their own and not through formal repatriation processes organised by the MHA, Mizoram and Tripura each year.
Thousands more have, however, continued to stay in the relief camps, partly because leaders in the camps have continuously rejected the repatriation package offered by the MHA, which includes almost Rs 1 lakh in cash, free rations for a year and land to build new houses in.
Their continued insistence on staying on in the camps has peeved Mizo groups who have protested that the Brus continue to have votes in Mizoram in spite of refusing to live in Mizoram for almost two decades. Several groups had called a popular bandh-call during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, forcing the ECI to change the dates.
The MHA, Tripura and Mizoram had subsequently agreed they would make a final attempt to repatriate the Brus (more than 11,000 adults with votes plus numerous minors) who continue to live in the camps, agreeing that those who still refuse to return would be struck off the rolls and further rations to them stopped.