Aizawl, Nov 6 (IANS) Normal life was thrown out of gear in poll-bound Mizoram on Tuesday, as a collective of NGOs organised a state-wide protest against the removal of Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo.
The state’s apex organisation of civil societies and student bodies — Mizoram NGO Coordination Committee (MNCC) — is demanding the removal of Mizoram Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S.B. Shashank, after Chuaungo was removed on an Election Commission order.
Thousands of people held a peaceful protest in front of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer in Aizawl.
According to an official of the state Election department, the Election Commission last week removed the Principal Secretary (Home) from his post for “dereliction of duty and interference in election process”.
“The Election Commission in its order said that if Chuaungo continues to hold his post, it would have an adverse effect on the conduct of a smooth, free and fair election in the state,” the official said, quoting the poll panel order.
The CEO in his report to the Election Commission reportedly said that Chuaungo, a 1987-batch Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, was creating obstacles in allowing the Reang tribals, sheltered in Tripura for over 21 years, to vote in the November 28 polls to constitute the 40-member Assembly.
A three-member Election Commission team, comprising Jharkhand CEO L. Khiangte, Election Commission Director Nikhil Kumar and Commission Secretary S.B. Joshi, arrived here on Tuesday to deal with the situation.
Most markets, shops and business establishments remained shut and private as well as passenger vehicles remained off the roads in support of the protests.
A senior police official said that attendance in government offices and banks was also low. “No untoward incident was, however, reported from anywhere in the state.”
Christian-dominated Mizoram is the only state ruled by the Congress in northeast India that comprises eight states.
Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla in separate letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh strongly opposed the Election Commission’s order removing Chuaungo.
The 35,000 Reang tribals, taking shelter in Tripura for over 21 years, have demanded setting up of polling stations in refugee camps so that they could cast their votes.
The Reang tribal refugees, comprising 5,907 families, fled Mizoram and have been staying in Tripura’s Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions since October 1997 following ethnic tension after a Mizo forest official was killed.
Among the refugees, just over 11,000 are eligible to vote in the Mizoram elections.
Meanwhile, Mizoram CEO Shashank said in Aizawl that he never had any intention to hurt the sentiments of the local people.
“I strictly went by the rules and the Election Commission’s guidelines,” the CEO told reporters.
Mizoram Bharatiya Janata Party President J.V. Hluna on Monday wrote to Modi, seeking his intervention to restore normalcy in the state before the polls.
The two main political parties in the state – the Congress and the BJP – are also supporting the protests spearheaded by the MNCC.