Riot-scalded Kandhamal district in Orissa has no dearth of candidates but Christian organisations want polls put off. They say that a majority of the victims would not get to vote because they are displaced.
Orissa is headed for parallel state and parliamentary elections, starting April 16. Twelve candidates are in the fray for Kandhamal, which has been made a general seat from the reserved seat after delimitation.
Archbishop of Cuttack Raphael Cheenath, the Bishop of Pulbani, the Church of North India head Enos Das Pradhan and Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace led by activist Teesta Setalvaad have petitioned the election regulator to defer polls, claiming over 22,000 people were missing.
Setalvaad’s organisation and a local civil society group, Qui Dina Forum, has been enlisted by the local administration for a verification drive of missing voters after Setalvaad petitioned the Election Commission.
“The verification drive is on. The EC had said it would provide full security during polling. What happens before and after that?” Setalvaad said from Mumbai.
Journalist Anto Akkara, who has authored an independent “investigative report” on last year’s communal clashes in Kandhamal, said biases still ran deep.
“There are persistent threats and a big polarisation is taking place. How can free and fair polls take place?”
Manoj Pradhan, a key accused in the riots, is contesting from the G. Udayagiri Assembly segment on a BJP ticket. Assembly segments under Kandhamal like Boudh, Baliguda and Phulbani were major riot flashpoints.