A high-level team sent by the Election Commission (EC) met on Friday the representatives of civil society groups demanding the ouster of Mizoram’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) SB Shashank.
While the groups said the EC team, led by Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, assured them of Shashank’s transfer, there was no such announcement from the poll panel on Friday. Sources said the Commission will take a decision based on Jain’s feedback.
“Both our primary demands have been accepted by the EC team. We have been assured that SB Shashank will be transferred out and the Bru people living in Tripura camps will vote in Mizoram,” Vanlalruata, the president of the central committee of the Young Mizo Association (YMA), an important constituent of the umbrella organisation All NGO Coordination Committee, told The Indian Express.
As first reported by The Indian Express on November 1, Shashank had complained to the EC of “direct interference” by the state in the preparation for polls, following which the Commission ordered the removal of Mizoram Principal Secretary (Home Department) L Chuaungo. Chuaungo’s removal irked the state government, political parties and civil society of the state. On Monday, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Shashank’s removal.
In his complaint, Shashank had alleged insensitivity on part of the state regarding the voting rights of the displaced Bru community, living in Tripura relief camps, and referred to the “active role” played by Chuaungo in the revision of electoral rolls and deployment of central security forces.
Over 30,000 Brus were displaced from Mizoram 21 years ago following ethnic clashes, with many of them living in six camps in the Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub-divisions of North Tripura.
The Brus want polling booths set up on the camps, saying that they feared a law-and-order problem if they went to Mizoram to vote. But civil society groups in Mizoram say no electoral process of the state should be conducted outside.
On Friday, a Congress delegation, led by former chief minister of Goa Luizinho Faleiro, met the three election commissioners in Delhi. The delegation, while objecting to state home secretary’s removal, echoed the Mizoram Chief Minister’s demand to replace the CEO.
The Commission is learnt to have reiterated its position to the Congress delegation that the decision to remove the state home secretary was not made by Shashank, but the entire Commission. The move was justified on the ground that the Mizoram home department was actively interfering in the poll preparation.
(With ENS New Delhi)