The Election Commission will set up 15 special polling stations at Kanhmun village along the Mizoram-Tripura border to help tribal refugees living in relief camps in Tripura exercise their franchise for the lone Lok Sabha seat in Mizoram, officials said on Friday. The tribal refugees, however, have yet to decide whether they would go to Kanhmun village to cast their votes.

There are around 12,000 eligible voters, from among the 35,000 tribal immigrants from Mizoram, sheltered in northern Tripura’s seven relief camps in Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions for the past 22 years after they fled from Mizoram in the wake of communal tensions.

“Like last year’s Assembly elections, the Election Commission has decided to set up 15 special polling stations at Kanhmun village to facilitate voting by the tribal refugees during the Lok Sabha polls in Mizoram,” Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Abeda Nanda Baidya told IANS on the phone.

“The North Tripura district administration would arrange vehicles and security to help these tribals to cast their votes in these 15 special polling stations on April 11,” he revealed.

Meanwhile, the NGO Coordination Committee, a conglomerate of major civil society and student organisations, had earlier threatened to agitate if special arrangements were made for the tribal refugee voters to cast their votes in the special polling stations, instead of the normal polling stations in different districts of Mizoram.

A delegation of the Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF), the refugees’ apex body, would meet the Election Commission in Delhi next week demanding setting up of polling stations inside the seven relief camps

“It would be very difficult for the aged, ailing and pregnant women to travel on an average of 35 km to Kanhmun village to cast votes. A three-member MBDPF delegation would meet the Election Commission early next week to persuade the commission to accept our demands,” Bruno Msha, General Secretary of MBDPF, told IANS.

Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra said in Aizawl that as per the Election Commission’s directives, 15 polling stations – nine for Mamit district and three each for Kolasib and Lunglei districts – would be set up at the Mizoram-Tripura border village.

Kundra said that he is in close touch with the Tripura CEO regarding the logistical support to the refugee voters. He said that he will send a team to Tripura to discuss the arrangements.

Meanwhile, following an agreement signed in Delhi in July 2018, foodgrain and other relief supplies to the Reang tribal immigrants were to be stopped from October 1, 2018, to compel the tribal refugees to return to their respective villages in Mizoram.

However, following an appeal by the refugees, the supply was extended twice by the Union Home Ministry first till March 31 and then again till September 30.

“A Home Ministry letter to the Chief Secretaries of Tripura and Mizoram said that the refugees have to be repatriated by September 30. Free rations and other facilities will be stopped then,” an official of Tripura’s Revenue and Relief department said.