ECI makes second attempt to conduct election in refugee camps

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Agartala, Nov 27 (UNI) The Election Commission of India will make a second attempt to conduct election through postal ballot in six Reang tribal refugee camps in north Tripura tomorrow and the day after, for the 40-member Mizoram Assembly, following refusal to vote by the inmates yesterday.

In a fresh notification here today, the ECI said postal ballot was printed as per the standard norms with the name without indicating the symbol of the candidates and as a result, the refugees did not exercise their franchise yesterday.

''The refugees made representation to the election observer that since a large number of voters are illiterate, they could not identify the candidate, unless the symbol is printed in the ballot.

Therefore, the ECI, using its inherent power under Article 324 of the Constitution, has decided to print fresh ballot and allow them to cast their votes on November 28-29 in the camps,'' the ECI notification said.

Meanwhile, Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum's (MBDPF) president Elvis Chorkhy alleged that the ECI had done it intentionally, even though the issue had been raised before them well in advance.

''Only the names of candidates were written on the ballot papers.

No symbols of party and candidates were printed and as most of the tribal refugees are illiterate, they could not choose their preferred candidates,'' he underlined.

Mr Chorkhy pointed out that only 6,479 of the total number of voters among the Reang tribal refugees had received Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC), which was 8,061 in the draft electoral rolls of 2008. Moreover, about 8,000 eligible voters of 35,000 refugees had been deprived of the voting rights this time.

The refugees were living at six camps in Kanchanpur subdivision of North Tripura since 1997, following the ethnic clashes in Mamit district of Western Mizoram. However, neither the Centre nor Mizoram government was sincere to solve the decade-old problem.

They alleged that despite repeated initiatives, the Zoramthanga government had not responded properly to take back the refugees and even refused to recognise them as residents of Mizoram and as a result, about 7,800 eligible voters could not enrol their names in the list.

Militant-outfit-turned-political-party MNF had been ruling the hilly state for the past 10 years but was reluctant to take back the Reang refugees, which prompted them to organise a series of agitations over the years.

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