Election in Manipur: High voter turn out, and incidents of booth capture

Ninglun Hanghal looks at the election in Manipur, which witnessed a high voter turnout, while in a few places, there were allegations of booth capturing.

Polling for the two Lok Sabha seat in Manipur have been completed. The record voter turnout was 75% and 84% in the Inner and Outer Manipur Parliamentary constituency respectively. No major changes comparatively as in the last general election in 2009 with a turnout of 72% and 84% respectively.

Though no major incidents were reported, in the Inner constituency Re-poll was held in one polling station at Moijing (A) in Thoubal District , where the number of voter turn-out exceed the voter list. Further, four Polling station in Oinam Constituency in Bishnupur District, saw no voter turn-out due to a boycott call, after public protest against the police in the aftermath of an incident of threat to one family by miscreants.

Except Moijing Polling station, no re-poll was recommended by the State CEO, though Political parties such as the BJP have demanded for a re-poll in several polling stations with allegations of manipulations of polling stations and proxy voting in the Inner Parliamentary constituency in Manipur.

In the outer parliamentary constituency, Re-polling was held in six Polling stations at Lambung and Molnoi village in Chandel district, Sanakeithel in Ukhrul; Keihao Tangkhul village, Katao village and Thaibung Khunou in Senapati district. According to the State Chief Election Officer in these areas EVMs were destroyed and the number of votes recorded was more than the number in the voters’ list.

Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency covers the entire hill districts, with majority of inhabitants, the Nagas and Kuki-Chin- Zo ethnic groups, along with seven Assembly segments in the Thoubal district and Jiribam sub-division in the valley.

Over 200 companies of state and armed para military forces as well as unarmed security personnel were deployed. Out of the total of 1406 polling stations; 327 were categorized as hyper sensitive, 797 sensitive and 282 officially considered normal. MI-17 helicopters were used in lifting polling personnel and EVMs at polling stations located in “unfriendly” terrains.

Ethnic and community polarization is still deep rooted in these Hill areas of Outer Manipur parliamentary constituency. The trend of the election canvassing and campaign, support for particular candidate are normally led by Traditional bodies, tribe based organizations and its leaders. Most commonly, people follow, support and vote in terms of their group, community and ethnic affiliations. Whether these trends of electoral politics and its discourse in these areas were in tandem with the “militant/ armed” groups is altogether a different story.

These militant groups in Manipur are notoriously infamous for their diktats over every spheres of socio – economic lives of the people.

Interestingly, Kuki Armed rebel groups, who were under Suspension of Operation (SoO) Agreement with the Government of India are voting in this election in Outer Manipur Parliamentary constituency. This is a welcome step by the Election Commission with an overwhelming response. A total of 280 ballot papers were provided to 14 various designated camps. In one of the designated camp in Sadar hills about 42 cadres of Kuki National Front (KNF) cast their votes . It may be mentioned that there are 23 armed groups under the SoO agreement.

It may also be recalled that the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) Isaac – Muivah and Khaplang group, the oldest secessionist militant movement in NE have successively boycotted elections in Manipur – both the state assembly , parliamentary , including the Autonomous District Council Elections.

The re-polling conducted in the six stations in the ongoing voting exercise are reportedly areas of NSCN domain.

Right after polls, reports of booth capture follows. Accusation and allegation of booth capturing were leveled against Militants/ Insurgent groups by political parties ,mostly the BJP in the outer Manipur parliamentary constituency.

Do these “militants” come to the polling stations is a big questions. With hundreds of security forces deployed in these “hyper sensitive” areas, whether “militants” have a free hand in these polling stations, is a complex phenomenon indeed. Do “militants” or underground outfits take control of the ballot boxes or do they force the common man at gun point is for the election officials to report and confirmed. It may also be noted that media persons are not present in these interior, rural areas. Moreover, it may be further stated that all elections related and voting reports from these interior areas were sourced from the State Election department.

The fact is many common civilians in these rural villages do not exercise their franchise. While traditional bodies, civil societies did influence public opinion, many are indifferent to elections, particularly Lok Sabha. Further these are areas with no basic infrastructures and proper connectivity far from the development and political discourse of the country.

The real picture behind the consistently impressive Voter turn outs and booth capturing in outer Manipur parliamentary constituency should be seriously looked into by the State Election Department and Election Commission of India.

Liberty Institute ( empowering India) New Delhi
April 2014

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Disingenuous at best. The media were at one of the poll booths where the capturing took place. I believe it was one of the national tabloids the Indian Express. They took photos of the helpers standing beside the EVM helping people to vote correctly. They interviewed the paramilitaries outside the booth who said their job was to make sure the place was peaceful not to ensure an honest free or fair election. Not sure what they mean by peaceful but I think that means so long as no one actually points a gun and fires but the reporter didn't press them. Some of the local scribes in editorials said it's really important that scribes report this instead of colluding with the status quo Sangei was one. But they weren't going to beat themselves up for not reporting abuses. I wil happily place a wager that the two sitting MPs will be reelected. Manipuris themselves say that they treat the elections like an old fashioned fayre. Different people offer them a piece of fish a thousand bucks and they give them their vote. You have spent too much time in Delhi. And you are too afraid to cover the actual polling in Manipur. manipuris will never use the elections for change. It is up to the rest of India who vote oddly too but at least do vote out the Government from time to time I hope to bring change to Manipur. It is a pity Manipuris didn't seize the moment. I note you didn't comment on irom Sharmila being denied the right to vote. And also that most of the paramilitaries weren't given the right to vote. Citizenship of a republic whose constitution entrenches rights with equality freedom and fraternity should grant all its citizens the right to vote. manipuris have it and choose to squander it. And people like you are so far from Manipur you no longer know what its really like there. But you weren't going to allow the comment so never mind.