Normalcy returns in poll-bound state of Mizoram


AIZAWL | November 9, 2018 (IANS):

Normalcy was restored in poll-bound Mizoram on Thursday after two days of protests by NGOs and civil society groups demanding the ouster of the incumbent Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and reinstatement of ousted Principal Secretary (Home).

"On the last date of filing of nominations on Friday, the candidates are busy filing their papers in their respective constituencies," an official of the Mizoram Election Department said.

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Most candidates, including Chief Minister and Congress state party Chief Lal Thanhawla, could not file their nominations on Tuesday and Wednesday as the Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee (MNCC) spearheaded state-wide protests for the sacking of CEO S.B. Shashank after Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo was removed on an Election Commission order.

The official said the MNCC, led by Mizoram's most powerful NGO, Young Mizo Association, temporarily called off their protests late Wednesday evening after Shashank left Aizawl for New Delhi to meet Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat and others.

"The Election Commission on Wednesday deputed a high-level team led by Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain to visit Mizoram on Friday to hold talks with all stake-holders," the official added.

According to an official of the state election department, the Election Commission last week removed the Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo from his post for "dereliction of duty and interference in election process".

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The CEO in his report to the Election Commission reportedly said that Chuaungo was creating obstacles in allowing the Reang tribals, sheltered in Tripura for over 21 years, to vote in the November 28 polls to constitute the 40-member Assembly.

The 35,000 Reang tribals, taking shelter in Tripura for over 21 years, have demanded setting up of polling stations in refugee camps so that they could cast their votes.

The Reang tribal refugees, comprising 5,907 families, fled Mizoram and have been staying in Tripura's Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions since October 1997 following ethnic tension after a Mizo forest official was killed.

Meanwhile, the MNCC in a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner said that the Election Commission must stick to the written commitment made by the poll panel in April 2014.

"The EC had made a written commitment before the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections that a provision would be made to ensure that the Reang tribal refugees, sheltered in Tripura, are able to vote within Mizoram in future polls," said the MNCC letter, which was submitted to the three-member EC team that visited the state on Tuesday and Wednesday and held meetings with the leaders of the MNCC, church bodies, poll officials and civil and police officers to normalise the situation.

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The three-member EC team comprised Jharkhand CEO L. Khiangte, Election Commission Director Nikhil Kumar and Commission Secretary S.B. Joshi.

The Election Commission in a statement on Wednesday said that the Commission expects that keeping with the ethos and tradition of peaceful society in Mizoram, all stakeholders, would sincerely work together so that no such incident recurs in future during the entire election process.