Aizawl: People congregated in large numbers in front of Mizoram chief electoral officer (CEO) S.B. Shashank’s office on Tuesday, November 6, following a call by an umbrella organisation of major civil societies and student associations to picket his office demanding his removal.
The NGO Coordination Committee had sought Shashank’s exit from the state by Monday evening, shortly after the Election Commission (EC) removed state’s principal secretary (home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo.
A section of media said Shashank had complained to the EC 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, November 5.
Elections to the 40-member Mizoram assembly are scheduled for November 28. Police said the CEO was at home and did not come to his office.
The conglomerate, which had Friday demanded that Shashank leave Mizoram by Monday evening, decided to picket before 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 Tuesday morning in response to a call made by the Mizoram Merchants’ Association (MiMA).
The protesters demanded the ouster of Shashank, who, they alleged have hurt the sentiments of the Mizo people by his “pro-Bru” stance for conducting the elections. The civil society bodies have 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 Monday, the CEO told a press meet here that he was just fulfilling his responsibilities in accordance with the instructions of the EC. 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, has been relieved of his responsibilities.On his fallout with Chuaungo, the CEO said he had issued a statement to the district election officers (DEO) and the electoral registration officers (ERO) 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 EC’s instructions.
Earlier, too, the civil society organisations had opposed the EC’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.
EC to assess the situation
In view of the demand for the ouster of S.B. Shashank, a three-member team of the Election Commission of India will arrive in poll-bound Mizoram on Tuesday to assess the situation , official sources said.
The high-level team will hold discussions with Chief Secretary Arvind Ray, other senior officials and leaders of civil societies in an effort to resolve the impasse, the sources said.
The team, comprising Jharkhand state CEO L. Khiangte, Director of Election Commission Nikhil Kumar and Secretary, Election Commission, S.B. Joshi is expected to reach the state capital on Tuesday afternoon.
Elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly are scheduled for November 28.
Chief minister Lal Thanhawla on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking immediate removal of the state CEO as “people have lost faith in him”.
S.B. Shashank’s removal is the only solution for smooth conduct of the November 28 Assembly elections, the chief minister said in the letter.