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Thousands protest in Aizawl seeking Mizoram CEO’s removal

Thousands of people gathered outside the office of Mizoram’s chief electoral officer, S B Shashank, in Aizawl on Tuesday seeking his removal weeks before the November 28 assembly elections.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2018 12:57 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Mizoram,CEO,Electoral officer
Thousands started assembling outside the office near Aizawl’s busy Treasury Square since 8 am and blocked roads for over four hours.(AFP/REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)

Thousands of people gathered outside the office of Mizoram’s chief electoral officer, S B Shashank, in Aizawl on Tuesday seeking his removal weeks before the November 28 assembly elections.

They started assembling outside the office near Aizawl’s busy Treasury Square since 8 am and blocked roads for over four hours. Reports said Shashank did not attend office on Tuesday and has been provided additional security.

The Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee, an umbrella organization of non-government organisations and civil society groups, had asked Shashank to quit by November 5 and leave the state after the principal secretary (home), Lalninmawia Chuaungo, was removed following the chief electoral officer’s complaint against him.

Shashank had accused Chuaungo of interfering with the revision of electoral rolls of Bru refugees from Mizoram, who have been living in relief camps in Tripura since ethnic violence drove them away in 1997. Most Mizos, including the state government, are opposed to the Election Commission (EC)’s proposal for allowing Brus to vote at their camps and want them to return to Mizoram for that.

The committee called for protests outside Shashank’s office and launched the ‘Save Mizoram Movement’ after he refused to quit or leave Mizoram. It has argued Shashank’s move to have Chuaungo removed and the proposal to allow Brus to vote in Tripura camps “could vitiate the atmosphere and create divisions among various groups”.

Young Mizo Association president Vanlalruata, who goes by a single name, said nearly 25,000-30,000 people had gathered outside Shashank’s office.

“Shops and business establishments remained shut and commercial vehicles also remained off the roads. Similar protests took place in other district headquarters and towns,’’ he said. “We will decide our next course of action soon. A meeting with the EC on the issue is also planned.”

Many Mizos took to social media platforms with hash-tags #SupportChuaungo and #OutShashank. Chuaungo, a Mizo, is an Indian Administrative Service officer belonging to the Gujarat cadre. He had been posted in Mizoram in April.

Several political parties, including the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have also supported the committee’s stance and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in removing Shashank.

“With the complete loss of confidence in him by the people, the only solution for smooth conduct of assembly elections, 2018, now would be the removal of SB Shashank from his office forthwith,” chief minister Lal Thanhawla wrote in a letter on Saturday to Modi.

State BJP president J V Hluna expressed solidarity with the protesters. He requested Modi “to neutralize the situation so that the election process to the state assembly be allowed to move forward peacefully”.

The EC has the powers to appoint and remove state chief electoral officers.

First Published: Nov 06, 2018 23:51 IST