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Ultras' diktat dampens poll process

Fear and panic have gripped politicians as most parties and supporters are not willing to take any risks in view of the rebel threats.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Guwahati
PUBLISHED ON APR 07, 2004 01:26 PM IST

The run-up to the general election in Manipur is getting murkier by the day, with more separatist groups issuing threats and poll boycott calls.

The latest to join the campaign to sabotage the elections to the two parliamentary seats from Manipur is the outlawed United National Liberation Front (UNLF).

The UNLF has warned of "stringent punishment" to anyone violating its diktat.

"Any kind of electoral activities in the state like holding of meetings, campaigning, putting up posters and banners is banned," a UNLF statement said.

Two banned rebel groups had earlier threatened Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates and their supporters with "capital punishment" if they came out for campaigning and voting on polling day.

The outlawed Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) in a statement warned the BJP against any electioneering and threatened capital punishment to anyone found campaigning for the party.

Last week the vice-president of the Manipur unit of the BJP, N Tombi Singh, escaped an assassination bid by KYKL rebels. He has since resigned from the party fearing a threat to his life.

Another influential militant group, the Revolutionary People's Front (RPF), has called for a boycott of Congress candidates in the elections.

Elections in the northeast are invariably marred by violence, with rebel groups targeting politicians during the run up to the poll.

Fear and panic have gripped politicians as most parties and supporters are not willing to take any risks in view of the rebel threats. With just under a fortnight left for polling, electioneering is yet to gain momentum.

"We appeal to the underground groups to withdraw their threats," senior BJP leader Haobam Bhuban Singh said.

There are an estimated 19 militant groups in Manipur, bordering Myanmar, with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

More than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in the northeast during the past two decades.

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