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|September 25, 1999||
Reang refugees boycott Mizoram poll
Sujit Chakraborty in Agartala
Tribal Reang voters are boycotting today's Lok Sabha poll in Mizoram and observing a 'black day' to protest against the exclusion of a large number of Reang refugees from the state's electoral list.
North Tripura District Magistrate Kumar Alok told UNI over phone this morning that the Mizoram government has set up two polling stations along the Mizoram-Tripura border to enable the Reang refugees to cast their votes. They had been taking shelter in four camps in north Tripura since October 15, 1997.
The Mizoram government has set up the two polling booths following a direction from the Delhi high court for the benefit of the Reang refugees, who had fled to north Tripura from 10 Mizoram villages in 1997 fearing ethnic trouble after the killing of a Mizo forest official.
Kumar Alok said that the state government has made adequate security and transport arrangements for the Reang refugees to enable them to exercise their franchise in Mizoram, where election is now on for the state's lone Lok Sabha seat.
Transportation facilities had been made as a special consideration as the refugees had to cover a distance of 90 kilometres to cast their votes in the two polling stations.
The district magistrate has said that at present more than 31,000 Reang refugees were in the relief camps, but only 1198 of them were included in the Mizoram voters' list.
The refugee leaders had been claiming that the number of voters would be over 18,000. The Mizoram government had intentionally deleted the names of a large number of Reang voters from the electoral list, the leaders alleged.
The refugee leaders yesterday informed the district magistrate about their decision to boycott the election.
According to Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer L Tochhong, the Reang voters were identified on the basis of the electoral rolls prepared on July 21, 1999 by the Mizoram government.
Meanwhile, the police said that an influential students' body in Mizoram has protested against the setting up of the special polling stations.
The Reangs and their outfit Bru National Liberation Front had been demanding autonomous district council for the Reangs living in Mizoram.
The Mizoram government had rejected the demand on several occasions and had said that it would make efforts for the socio-economic upliftment of the primitive tribes.
The presence of Reangs in Mizoram was negligible till 1961 but there was a sharp increase in their population after 1971 which could only be attributed to a largescale migration from Tripura, a statement said.
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