GUWAHATI, November 8: The NGO Coordination Committee, which has been spearheading the protests against Mizoram chief electoral officer (CEO) SB Shashank, on Thursday said it would not allow the assembly election to be held if the Election Commission (EC) did not meet its demands.
On Friday, an EC team, led by deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain, will visit Mizoram for the second time this week in light of the ongoing controversy over the CEO and the voting rights of Bru refugees living in Tripura.
“We will not budge an inch from our demands,” Vanlalruata, chairperson of the powerful NGO Coordination Committee, told TOI from Aizawl. The NGO Coordination Committee is a conglomerate of Mizo civil society organizations, led by the Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA), which Vanlalruata also heads.
“The Bru people, registered as voters of Mizoram but living in Tripura, should cast their votes from here. And the chief electoral officer must be replaced. Unless the EC agrees to these, no election can be conducted in Mizoram,” Vanlalruata said.
“We will not comment on how the EC will arrange for Bru voters to vote within Mizoram. Likewise, it is for the EC to decide who will replace Shashank,” he added.
Members of the Bru tribal community had fled Mizoram in 1997 after ethnic clashes and have been living in six refugee camps of Tripura since then. Their voting rights have raked up a huge controversy in Mizoram, where Mizo groups have demanded that the EC should not give any “special treatment” to the Brus, referring to the provision for postal ballots by which the refugees are supposed to vote. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election as well, the Bru refugees had voted by postal ballots but the EC had said it would be the last time they were allowed to do so — a promise the Mizo organizations have now gone back to.
On Tuesday, the umbrella body launched a gherao of the CEO’s office, describing him as a Bru sympathizer. They also said the principal secretary for home, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, against whom Shashank had complained to the EC for “interference with the election process”, was a “Mizo hero” who had been wronged by the EC.
The NGO Coordination Committee said Shashank should be removed because “the people of Mizoram, the Mizoram government employees’ association, Church leaders, journalists and all NGOs” do not have confidence on Shashank to “carry on the task of general election” in Mizoram. Cutting across party lines, state chief minister Lal Thanhawla and opposition Mizo National Front have also defended Chuaungo and condemned Shashank.
Thousands had joined Tuesday’s gherao, which was suspended for talks with an EC team in Aizawl but resumed after the discussion was deemed “inconclusive”. The protest was called off again on Wednesday after the EC agreed to send a team to Aizawl again to discuss the matter and Shashank was summoned to Delhi. (TNN)