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Mizoram goes to elections amid festivity

The percentage of voting was around 75 across the state, less than the previous elections.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2003 03:08 IST
Rahul Karmakar and Syed Sajjad Ali
Rahul Karmakar and Syed Sajjad Ali

Polling to the fifth Mizoram assembly on Thursday passed off peacefully and with an air of festivity, save in the Sangpuilawn constituency bordering Manipur. In Sangpuilawn, repolling was ordered in seven of the 12 polling booths.

The percentage of voting was around 75 across the state, less than the previous elections.

Sangpuilawn had been tense since Wednesday evening. Three candidates of the Mizoram People's Conference (MPC), Congress and Mizo National Front (MNF) had been abducted by Hmar militants at gunpoint — allegedly to facilitate the victory of an independent candidate belonging to the Hmar tribe. The three were later rescued by a crack team of the Mizoram Armed Police.

According to Mizoram chief electoral officer Lalmalsawma, EVMs were destroyed in two of the seven booths in Sangpuilawn constituency, forcing a repoll.

In the other five booths where repolling will be held on November 24, none of the voters turned up following intimidation by the Hmar militants.

Counting of votes is scheduled for December 2.

Reangs cast vote

Tension was also rife in the western constituencies of Zawlnuam and Kawrthah bordering Tripura, following threats by some Mizo groups to sabotage voting if Reang (or Bru) tribals were allowed to exercise their franchise.

However, over 1,700 Reang voters cast their votes.

The Reangs -- who fled Mizoram six years ago following an ethnic cleansing drive -- are housed in six refugee camps in the Kanchanpur area of Tripura. They came in some 100 jeeps and buses provided by the Tripura government and escorted by six platoons of paramilitary forces.

Some miscreants tried to deter Reangs from voting by exploding crackers and shouting anti-Reang slogans in Kanmun and Tuipuibari, where polling stations were specially set up to facilitate their voting.

The arrangements were made in line with strict instructions and guidelines of the Election Commission.

That there could not be any non-compliance with the directive was known to Mizoram and Tripura governments.

This was second occasion in India's electoral history where measures were taken to ensure franchise of evacuees — the first was for Kashmiri Pandits.

We’ll return, say militants

Hmar militants who kidnapped three candidates on Tuesday, have threatened to return. Congress candidate Ngurdingliana, who returned to Aizawl after being rescued by the police, told newsmen: "The militants gave us a bullet each, saying they would return to collect the bullets if our supporters did not vote for the Hmar People's Convention candidate H Lalsangzuala."

To 'be back to collect the bullet' is the typical Mizo militant way of threatening to kill.

The police said the three candidates shoved into a Maruti Gypsy. The vehicle was taken to a forest from where the three were made to walk for nearly five hours along the Tuival river.

Police caught up with them as they were trying to cross the river.

First Published: Nov 20, 2003 09:26 IST