EC Agrees to Remove Mizoram CEO: NGO Coordination Committee Chief

In view of the protests, EC has dispatched a three-member team to Mizoram to assess the situation.

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India
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On Tuesday, 6 November, over 40,000 people held a rally in Aizawl, demanding Shashank’s removal.
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An Election Commission team, held discussions with government officials and members of a apex body for civil societies in Mizoram here Friday and agreed to remove state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S B Shashank, a civil society leader said.

The four-member EC team, headed by Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, did not speak to the press. Chief Secretary Arvind Ray and the joint CEO were not allowed inside the hall where the meeting was held.

In a meeting held on Saturday, 10 November, the EC has decided to call for a panel of names for the post of State Chief Electoral Officer. Further steps will only be taken after receiving reports of the visit by deputy election commissioner’s team to the state, as reported by ANI.

The EC had also said in a letter that it had replaced Principal Secretary (Home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo earlier this week after observing his role in great detail, news agency ANI reported.

The protesters had gathered in front of Mizoram chief electoral officer (CEO) SB Shashank’s office on Tuesday, 6 November, demanding his removal.

The NGO Coordination Committee – an umbrella organisation of civil groups and student associations – sought Shashank’s removal by Monday, 5 November, shortly after the EC removed Chuaungo for alleged interference in the process of the upcoming Assembly elections.

In view of the protests, the poll panel has dispatched a three-member team to the state to assess the situation, official sources said.

Expressing its concern over the near-violent nature of the protests on Tuesday, the EC team led by Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain, said it will conduct further discussions on Friday, 9 November, in Aizawl, ANI reported. It also claimed to accept the “broad contours” of the resolution passed by the NGO Coordination Committee, after deliberations with the delegation of the poll body.

Thousands Rally in Mizoram

On Tuesday morning, over 40,000 people held a rally in Aizawl, demanding Shashank’s removal, The Indian Express reported.

The protesters blocked the CEO’s office, located in Treasury Square. The Federation of Mizoram Government Employees and Workers has also sent a letter to EC, saying they would not help conduct elections unless Shashank was transferred out of the state before 4 pm on Friday, 9 November, The Indian Express reported.

EC Agrees to Remove Mizoram CEO: NGO Coordination Committee Chief
(Photo: The Quint)

All shops in Aizawl city, except a few restaurants, were closed on Tuesday morning in response to a strike called by the Mizoram Merchants’ Association (MiMA).

The civil society has appealed to the owners of commercial vehicles not to allow their vehicles to be used for transporting central paramilitary forces to Mizoram. Vehicles bound for Assam to transport the Central Armed Police Forces were stopped by volunteers of a prominent non-governmental organisation in Mizoram since Monday, 5 November, police said.

The 76 vehicles, sent by the State Election Department to transport the CAPF personnel, were halted by volunteers of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) at Kolasib and Kawnpui towns, bordering Assam. Most of the vehicles returned to Aizawl.

Responding to the demand for his removal, CEO Shashank told The Indian Express:

I have done nothing wrong or illegal. I appeal to the state’s civil society to understand my position and see that I was doing my job. If I have hurt anyone, I am sorry.
SB Shashank, Chief Electoral Officer, Mizoram

CM Pens Letter to Modi

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla had said on Monday, 5 October: “As people have lost faith in him, the only solution for smooth conduct of the Assembly elections 2018, would be (the) removal of CEO S B Shashank from office forthwith.”

He also penned a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

EC Agrees to Remove Mizoram CEO: NGO Coordination Committee Chief
(Photo: The Quint)

Crisis Over Bru Refugees

On 1 November, Shashank had complained against Chaungo about the “direct interference” of the state in the preparation for polls and alleged that there was insensitivity regarding the voting rights of the Bru community.

Shashank said: “His (Chuaungo’s) direct interference was found. If you see the EC order, you will find everything very clearly mentioned. He was interfering in revision of rolls (of the Bru) and causing hindrance in our work.”

The CEO refers to the arrangements made to help the Bru refugees, who are staying in camps in Tripura, take part in the elections.

The tiff began in September, when Shashank had reportedly issued a statement that allowed identification slips as valid documents that could be used by the Bru refugees. Two days later, Chuaungo issued another order asking refugees not use the identification slips, except for the purpose of repatriation.

Thousands of people from the Bru community had fled Mizoram in the late 1990s following ethnic clashes.

Chuaungo, a native of the state and a Gujarat-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was relieved of his responsibilities after the complaint.

(With inputs from PTI and The Indian Express)

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