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Mizoram Lok Sabha poll deferred to April 11
Tuesday April 8, 2014 3:49 PM, IANS

The election to the lone Lok Sabha seat from Mizoram has been deferred to April 11 due to a three-day shutdown and poll boycott call by NGOs and students' groups, an official said Tuesday.

The polling was earlier scheduled to be held April 9.

"The Election Commission, considering the prevailing situation in Mizoram, deferred the lone Lok Sabha polls in Mizoram to Friday. The commission issued this directive Monday night," Mizoram Chief Electoral officer Aswani Kumar told IANS.

He said: "In view of the fresh directives of the Election Commission, we are taking measures accordingly to hold the poll April 11 instead of April 9."

Another Election Commission official said that the 72-hour strike, which began Monday in Mizoram, affected the movement of polling officials across the state, bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Normal life was affected in Mizoram since Monday as six voluntary organisations and student groups called for a three-day shutdown and boycott of the April 9 polling to protest postal ballot facility to the tribal refugees living in Tripura for the past 17 years.

"There was no untoward incident anywhere in the state so far," a Mizoram police spokesman said, but admitted that normal life was severely affected across the mountainous state.

Government and private offices, shops, markets and other institutions remained closed in capital city Aizawl and other parts of the northeastern state. Most vehicles, except those of security forces, were off the roads, police said.

By-election for the Hrangturzo assembly seat would also be held April 11 instead of April 9.

The by-election was necessitated after Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who won from two seats in the assembly polls held in November last year, vacated the seat.

Vanlalawmpuii Chawngthu of the Congress would contest against UDF leader H. Lalduhawma, who unsuccessfully contested the last assembly polls from the same constituency.

Six voluntary organisations and students' groups led by the Young Mizo Association (YMA) called the 72-hour state-wide strike and urged people to boycott April 9 polling.

"We launched the agitation as the Election Commission ignored our demand not to allow tribal refugees in Tripura to cast their votes in relief camps through postal ballot," YMA spokesman J. Lalsailova told reporters.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, who is also the state Congress chief, in a letter to the Election Commission, earlier last month urged it not to take votes of the refugees through postal ballots in the Tripura relief camps.

The chief minister and the voluntary organisations have been demanding the refugees be repatriated to their villages in Mizoram and then allowed to cast their votes in normal process.

Of the over 36,000 Reang tribal refugees living in seven camps in Tripura since October 1997 after fleeing their villages in western Mizoram, 11,500 were on electoral rolls in Mizoram and 71 percent of them voted through postal ballot last week.

"In view of a threat given by NGOs in Mizoram to obstruct counting of postal ballot papers in Aizawl, the Election Commission has decided to count them in Kanchanpur (north Tripura) May 16," Kanchanpur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Nantu Das told IANS.

The Reang tribals - locally known as 'Bru' - fled their villages in Mizoram and took shelter in neighbouring Tripura in October 1997 after an ethnic conflict broke out with the majority Mizos over the killing of a Mizo forest official.

Despite the Tripura government's repeated requests, an initiative of the union home ministry and the Mizoram government to repatriate the refugees to their villages has failed.

Only about 5,000 refugees returned to their homes in the past three-and-half years following continued persuasion by Mizoram, Tripura and the union home ministry officials. The repatriation process was subsequently stopped.

The refugees insist on a written agreement with the Mizoram government assuring them security and economic scope in their villages.

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