AMN / Aizawl
Protesters demanding the ouster of Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S B Shashank called off their protest on Wednesday after the state election official left for New Delhi after being summoned by the Election Commission.
The protests were called off at 1 pm after the CEO left the city for, NGO Coordination Committee chairman Vanlalruata said.
Earlier in the day, Shashank said he had been summoned by the Election Commission and he would meet the poll panel in the national capital on Thursday.
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The agitation demanding his removal had been launched on Tuesday and resumed Wednesday morning by a large number of Young Mizo Association members in front of the CEO’s office from 8 am. The protesters later dispersed.
The Assembly election in Mizoram is scheduled for November 28.
Vanlalruata said the coordination committee would wait and watch the decision taken by the Election Commission of India on the CEO.
“If Shashank comes back, the agitation will be relaunched,” Vanlalruata said.
The NGO Coordination Committee, the apex body of civil societies and students’ organisations in the north-eastern state, had demanded that Shashank be replaced and transferred outside the state.
It also demanded that 11,232 Bru voters lodged in six Tripura relief camps be allowed to exercise their franchise at their respective polling stations in Mizoram and not in Tripura as committed by the poll panel in 2014.
The committee had called for Shashank’s exit from the state shortly after the Election Commission (EC) removed the state’s principal secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo.
He had allegedly sought deployment of additional central armed police forces (CAPF) in the state which did not go down well with the committee.
On Monday, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that “as people have lost faith in him (Shashank), the only solution for the smooth conduct of the Assembly elections 2018 would be removal of CEO S B Shashank from office forthwith.”
The coordination committee that comprises Young Mizo Association, Mizo Upa Pawl (Mizo senior citizens association), Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (Mizo women organisation) and two student bodies – Mizo Zirlai Pawl and Mizo Students Union – asked CEO SB Shashank to leave Mizoram latest by November 5.
The Mizo NGOs accused the CEO of hampering the process of free, fair and peaceful Assembly polls and hurting the sentiments of the Mizo people.
“The civil societies in Mizoram have been working to ensure free, fair and peaceful polls, but recent actions of Shashank were in contravention of such efforts and the NGO Coordination Committee was of the opinion that the CEO is no longer fit to conduct the electoral process,” the committee said in a statement.
They also suggested that Shashank is replaced by an official who is trustworthy and receives the confidence of the Mizo people to conduct the Assembly polls.
On Friday, the Election Commission of India transferred the State Principal Secretary of Home Department Lalnunmawia Chuaungo for “interfering with the electoral process.” The transfer was made on the basis of a complaint from the CEO.
The Commission, in its order, stated, “The continuance of Lalnunmawia Chuaungo as the principal secretary (Home) in Government of Mizoram will have an adverse effect on the conduct of smooth, free and fair election process in Mizoram.”
The complaints against Chuaungo were that he had questioned the CEO on the quantum of deployment of security forces and also objected to making special arrangements for Bru refugees to vote in the camps in neighbouring Tripura where they have been living for 21 years since they fled their homeland in Mizoram following ethnic clashes. They are registered as voters in Mizoram and in the past, they had voted through postal ballots from their camps in Tripura.