Violence, threats to voters, damaged EVMs mark polling in strife-torn Manipur | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Violence, threats to voters, damaged EVMs mark polling in strife-torn Manipur

Apr 19, 2024 07:20 PM IST

Voting took place in the Inner Manipur parliamentary seat and a portion of the Outer Manipur seat in the first phase

Guwahati: Incidents of shooting, damage to electronic voting machines (EVMs), threats to voters and polling agents by armed miscreants and alleged rigging marked the first phase of polling in strife-torn Manipur on Friday.

A poster spreading awareness to vote is pictured on a street ahead of the elections in Imphal, Manipur, India, April 7, 2024. (REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas)
A poster spreading awareness to vote is pictured on a street ahead of the elections in Imphal, Manipur, India, April 7, 2024. (REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas)

Voting took place in the Inner Manipur parliamentary seat and a portion of the Outer Manipur seat in the first phase. Voting for the remaining areas of Outer Manipur seat will be held in the second phase on April 26.

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Despite heavy deployment of state forces and 162 companies of central armed police forces, several videos and photos circulating on social media showed armed miscreants roaming freely and gunshots being fired near at least one polling station. One voter sustained bullet wounds in one such incident at a polling station under Khurai assembly seat.

“There were few reports of violence including one shooting by members of two groups in Bishnupur. We have received information about damage to EVMs at a few polling stations. We are in the process of compiling all data,” said Pradeep Kumar Jha, chief electoral officer, Manipur.

According to poll officials, nearly 70% of voting was reported till 5 pm. The figures are expected to rise after the final tabulation is done. Many polling stations in Kangpokpi district, however, wore deserted looks due to a call to boycott voting by the Committee on Tribal Unity, a Kuki organisation.

Also Read: Manipur: Tracking a campaign behind close doors

Gunfire broke out near a polling station at Thamanpokpi in Bishnupur. There were reports that three persons were injured in the shooting. But police and election officials didn’t confirm that.

Manipur has been rocked by ethnic clashes between Meiteis, who are dominant in the Imphal Valley, and the tribal Kuki-Zo communities, who are a majority in few hill districts, since May last year. The violence has claimed 221 lives and displaced around 50,000.

“There was large scale violence and disturbance in Manipur on Friday during polling. Armed miscreants threatened Congress workers and polling agents inside several polling stations, forcing them to leave. Voters who were present were also threatened to vote for the ruling BJP candidate,” said Manipur Congress chief K Meghachandra Singh.

Singh alleged that such incidents took place in at least 30 polling stations in the Inner Manipur seat and around 10 polling stations in Outer Manipur seat. There were 2107 polling stations in the state in the first phase.

Congress has filed several complaints to the state election office about threats by armed gunmen and rigging in polling stations falling under Konthoujam, Khurai, Thonhju, Keirao, Andro, Yaiskul, Oinam and Heingang assembly seats in Inner Manipur seat.

Also Read: How will the Northeast vote?

There were also several reports of voters not being able to cast their votes as someone had already voted in their names.

“It was shocking to find that my right to vote had already been taken away when I arrived to cast my vote. Several other voters also found themselves in a similar predicament deprived of their right to vote by unknown individuals,” wrote a voter from the 2/23 polling station at Heingang Mayai Leikai in a complaint to the election office.

Incidents of EVMs being damaged by members of the public were also reported on social media. Videos and photos showed people storming two polling stations in Uripok assembly seat and damaging EVMs and furniture.

Congress has submitted written requests to the election commission to order re-poll in the polling stations where violence, rigging and threats to voters and polling agents took place.

“There were some incidents in which armed miscreants were seen roaming around. But we can assure that BJP workers were not involved in violence, damage to EVMs and threats to voters to cast votes in favour of one candidate or party. Congress can make all such claims and allegations, but we had no role in the incidents,” said Chidananda Singh, vice president of BJP in Manipur.

Like the Congress, the BJP has also filed a complaint with the election office against Congress candidate for the Inner Manipur seat, A Bimol Akoijam, accusing him of going inside polling stations with large number of supporters and disrupting polling.

In a widely circulated video, the Congress candidate is seen complaining to police officers about threats to his polling agents despite the presence of security personnel. In another video he is seen with a woman who was allegedly strangled by some armed miscreants.

A radical Meitei outfit, Arambai Tenggol, which has been accused in social media platforms of orchestrating Friday’s violence issued a statement denying its role and claimed the organisation’s name is being misused. It stated that the acts of violence may have been perpetrated by workers and supporters of candidates.

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