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EC's decision on Chakmas stirs a hornet's nest in Arunachal

Deputy Election Commissioner Noor Mohammed has said except for Chakma issue in Arunachal Pradesh, there should not be any problem in the conduct of free and fair elections in the state.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Kohima
UPDATED ON MAY 01, 2004 01:23 PM IST

The Election Commission is worried over the recent developments in connection with inclusion of names of Chakma refugees in electoral rolls in Arunachal Pradesh for the smooth conduct of parliamentary elections there, but anticipates peaceful polling in Nagaland.

Deputy Election Commissioner Noor Mohammed on Friday said that strong opposition particularly from the students organisations against the enrolment of Chakma voters in the electoral rolls has been a matter of concern for the commission.

"Except for the Chakma issue in Arunachal Pradesh, there should not be any problem in the smooth conduct of polls in that state. We have been monitoring the situation and appropriate measures are being taken," he told reporters after wrapping up his two-day tour to Nagaland.

The powerful All-Arunachal Students Union (AASU) is very agitated over the Chakma refugee issue in the Himalayan state and has resolved to boycott the Lok Sabha polls on May 5, protesting the Election Commission's decision to include the names of 1,470 Chakma voters in the electoral rolls.

However, the Commission was satisfied with the poll preparations and security arrangements in Nagaland and anticipated a peaceful election on May 5, Mohammed said.

The Deputy Election Commissioner, who arrived here on Thursday, held meetings with representatives of political parties and also reviewed the poll preparations with senior civil and police officials of the state government.

Referring to certain political parties' contention against the ''traditional voting system'' in Nagaland, the Commission has asked the election machineries in the state to ensure that every voter in a village is able to exercise his or her franchise.

According to Naga customary practice, after the village chiefs or village council office-bearers decide to vote in favour of a particular candidate or party on behalf of the entire village, the office bearers exercise the franchise for all and sundry.

The commission has also directed the state chief secretary to contact his counterparts in Assam seeking co-operation from the neighbouring state for peaceful conduct of polling in inter-state border areas.

The cooperation from the Assam government is necessary because polling parties from Nagaland have to cross through the neighbouring state to make arrangement in border areas and such co-operation will also subside unnecessary tension in the disputed border belt during the polling, Mohammad explained.

The Deputy Election Commissioner said all necessary security arrangement were being made with regard to the deployment of additional companies of paramilitary forces, and the ''environment building task'' has been given to Assam Rifles across the state.

After receiving complaints that deputy commissioners and additional deputy commissioners, who are also additional returning officer (AROs), accompanied the ministers during the campaigning trail, the Commission today asked returning office (RO) to issue fresh notice to AROs asking them not to do so henceforth.

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