With three weeks to go for the assembly polls, Mizoram is witnessing an unprecedented situation where the state’s people and political parties are at loggerheads with its chief election officer. Protests, held across the state since last week, ended today after the official was summoned to Delhi by his bosses. The officer, SB Sashank, had pushed for the removal of the state’s home secretary, accusing him of interfering in the electoral rolls revision process. The Election Commission had acted immediately. But it provoked the Mizo youth, who want the bureaucrat, a local, be reinstated and the election official shunted out.
Top 10 points on the agitation
- The massive protest rally and the Election Commission’s move to summon the official came after Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding Mr Shashank’s removal.
- To pacify the protesters, Election Commission sent an emissary, Chief Election Officer, Jharkhand, L Khiangte, to hold talks with officials and protesters. He is currently in the state.
- The protests, if left unresolved, could affect the polls. The Federation of Mizoram Government Employees and Workers said if the official is not removed before Friday, their members would not cooperate with the election work.
- Trouble started after Mr Sashank shot off a letter to the Election Commission, saying state home secretary, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, was “interfering” in the revision of electoral rolls and asked the panel to remove him from his post.
- Mr Sashank accused Mr Chuaungo, a 1987-batch Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, of objecting to facilitate voting for Mizoram’s Bru tribe refugees living in Tripura, for the Assembly elections. Subsequently, poll panel had transferred out Mr Chuaungo.
- The protesters say that there are efforts to enroll Bru tribe members who are in Tripura as voters without proper procedures.
- After a bout of ethnic violence in the 90s, some 30,000 Brus were displaced from Mizoram. Many of them are now living in six camps in the Kanchanpur and Panisagar areas of North Tripura. Their repatriation that started in 2010 remains a work in progress.
- The conflict between the Mizos, who are majority and Brus, who are minority is historic. The Mizos claims that lot of Brus from Tripura and Assam, where they are known as Reangs, will make entry into Mizoram voters list. The Mizos believe political parties might them as vote bank if Brus have become voters in large numbers.
- The influential Young Mizo Association (YMA), which is backed by the church, is also protesting the transfer of the Mr Chuaungo, who is a local Mizo. They too demand the removal of Mr Sashank.
- The two main political parties in the state – Congress and the BJP – are supporting the protesters. The state will elect a new government on November 28.