Mizoram: Stir against election official over status of Bru refugee voters

Mizoram: Stir against election official over status of Bru refugee voters
Highlights

People congregated in large numbers in front of the office of SB Shashank, Chief Electoral Officer of Mizoram in Aizawl on Tuesday, following a call by an umbrella organisation of major civil society groups and student associations to picket his office to demand his removal

People congregated in large numbers in front of the office of S.B. Shashank, Chief Electoral Officer of Mizoram in Aizawl on Tuesday, following a call by an umbrella organisation of major civil society groups and student associations to picket his office to demand his removal.

The NGO Coordination Committee had sought Shashank's exit from Mizoram by Monday evening, shortly after the Election Commission removed the state's principal secretary (home), Lalnunmawia Chuaungo.

A section of media had said Shashank had complained to the Election Commission that Chuaungo was interfering in the poll process.

"As people have lost faith in him, the only solution for smooth conduct of the Assembly elections 2018 now would be removal of CEO S.B. Shashank from office forthwith," Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

Elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly are scheduled for November 28.

Police said Shashank was at home and did not come to his office on Tuesday. The civil society groups, which had Friday demanded that Shashank leave Mizoram by Monday evening, decided to picket the CEO's office, which is located at Treasury Square, from Tuesday and not allow him to attend office.

The NGO Coordination Committee also appealed to the Federation of Mizoram Government Employees and Workers (FMGEW) to support the agitation and cease work from Tuesday.

All shops in Aizawl city, except a few restaurants, were closed on Tuesday morning in response to a call made by the Mizoram Merchants' Association (MiMA).

The protesters demanded the ouster of Shashank, who, they alleged, hurt the sentiments of the Mizo people by his "pro-Bru" stance for conducting the elections.

The civil society bodies appealed to the owners of commercial vehicles not to allow their vehicles to be used for transporting Central paramilitary forces from outside the state to Mizoram.

Vehicles bound for Assam to transport the Central armed police forces were stopped by volunteers of a prominent non-governmental organisation in Mizoram since Monday, police said.

The 76 vehicles, sent by the State Election Department to transport the CAPF personnel, were halted by volunteers of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) at Kolasib and Kawnpui towns, bordering Assam.

Most of the vehicles have returned to Aizawl, police said. Earlier on Monday, Shashank told a press meet in Aizawl that he was just fulfilling his responsibilities in accordance with the instructions of the Election Commission.

The EC, in its Friday's order, had said, "The Election Commission is satisfied that the continuance of Mr. Lalnunmawia Chuaungo as principal Secretary (home), in state government of Mizoram will have adverse impact on conduct of smooth, free and fair election process in Mizoram."

The order mentioned six incidents, mainly related to the arrangements to enable the Bru refugees, staying in camps in Tripura, take part in the voting process. Thousands of people from the Bru community had fled Mizoram in the late 1990s following ethnic clashes.

Chuaungo, a native of the state and Gujarat-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was relieved of his responsibilities.

On his fallout with Chuaungo, Shashank said he had issued a statement to the district election officers and the electoral registration officers on September 11 to notify that "identification slips could be used as valid documents by eligible Bru migrants in Tripura".

Chuaungo, however, issued another order on September 13, asking the Bru refugees to not use the identification slips, except for the purpose of repatriation, he said.

Shashank had alleged that Chuaungo and Chief Secretary Arvind Ray did not issue any clarification on the September 13 order, despite the Election Commission's instructions.

Earlier, too, the civil society organisations had opposed the Election Commission's decision to conduct electoral revision of the Bru voters in Tripura's relief camps.

They also urged the EC to disenfranchise all the Bru voters who chose to stay back in Tripura and did not return to Mizoram.

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