Despite uncertain future, tribal refugees vote in Mizoram polls

Amid prolonged uncertainty over return to their homes, Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in Tripura for 21 years, on Wednesday voted in large numbers in the Mizoram Assembly polls.

North Tripura district officials said around 60 per cent of the 12,018 voters among over 35,000 tribal immigrants after travelling around 50-60 km cast their ballots at Kanhmun, a village along the Mizoram-Tripura border.

The Election Commission (EC) had set up 15 special polling stations at Kanhmun to facilitate voting by Reang refugees, sheltered in seven camps in northern Tripura since October 1997.

Some women voters carrying their children in their laps went to the Mizoram border village to exercise their democratic right.

Over 105 Tripura government officials led by North Tripura district's Kanchanpur and Panisagar Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDM) Abeda Nanda Baidya and N. Darlong supervised the entire process of refugees' transportation, security and other aspects involving balloting.

Around 600 vehicles were arranged by the two sub-divisional administrations to ferry the refugees.

"Following the direction from the Election Commission, we arranged the vehicles to ferry the tribal refugees from the relief camps in Tripura to Kanhmun village to cast their votes in Mizoram Assembly polls," Baidya told IANS over phone.

Panisagar SDM Darlong said: "We have also arranged medical facilities and ambulances for the refugee voters in need."

"There are aged men and women, lactating and pregnant women among the immigrants, but they did not shy away from performing their democratic duties," she told IANS from Panisagar, 150 km north of Agartala.

According to the two SDMs, a large number of immigrants were very excited to cast their votes and became ready in the wee hours on Wednesday to go to Kanhmun village, under Mamit district of west Mizoram.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Mizoram Assembly polls in 2013 and in the previous polls since 1997, the tribal immigrants cast their votes in the refugee camps after the Election Commission established polling stations in the relief camps in northern Tripura.