Civil society groups in Mizoram on Wednesday called off their ongoing strike, demanding removal of the state’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), SB Shashank, after he was summoned to New Delhi for a meeting. The meeting, which will be held on Thursday, was called by the Election Commission (EC) to take stock of the situation on ground, especially the status of the ongoing agitation in the state.
All three election commissioners met on Wednesday to deliberate on the joint resolution submitted by the NGO Coordination Committee.
“After due deliberations on the resolution, the Commission, while accepting the broad contours of the resolution passed by the All NGO, Mizoram, decided to depute a higher level ECI team led by Deputy Election Commissioner Mr Sudeep Jain, in-charge of Mizoram to have further discussion on 9th November, 2018 at Aizawl with the representative of All NGO, Mizoram on their Resolution,” the EC informed in a media statement.
Although Shashank’s ouster is part of the joint resolution, sources said that the poll panel’s acceptance of the broad contours of the resolution does not mean the former’s removal.
“The higher-level team has been deputed to negotiate with the civil society groups,” a source said on the condition of anonymity.
On Tuesday, more than 40,000 people had taken to the streets of Aizawl, demanding action against Shashank for free and fair conduct of polls.
“The strike has been temporarily called off today after Shashank was called to Delhi. We will wait and see what the ECI says and then decide the future course of action,” said Lalhmachhuana, general secretary of the central committee of the Young Mizo Association (CYMA).
Late night in Kolasib, a top district administration official said the protests demanding removal of names of displaced Bru people living in camps in Tripura from the electoral rolls turned violent. Protesters reportedly threw stones at the deputy commissioner’s office and at least one security personnel was injured.
Lalhmachhuana condemned the Kolasib incident, calling it unfortunate, and said the CYMA has sent a delegation of Kolasib for a peaceful resolution of the issue. He added that the protesters could have been instigated at the behest of political parties.
The EC also expressed concern about Tuesday’s violence in its statement.
“The Commission expects that, keeping with the ethos and tradition of peaceful society in Mizoram, all stakeholders will sincerely work together so that no such incident recurs in future during the entire election process and elections are conducted peacefully with maximum participation as always,” it stated.
As first reported by The Indian Express on November 1, Shashank had complained to the EC of “direct interference” by the state government 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.