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Nagaland to vote under shadow of violence
G Vinayak in Dimapur |
February 22, 2003 19:33 IST
The shadow of violence looms large over Nagaland as the state prepares for the first real electoral contest in the last 10 years on February 26.
Opposition parties had boycotted the 1998 elections, enabling the Congress to win 43 of the 60 seats in the assembly uncontested.
This is the first time that elections are being held when a ceasefire is on with leading militant groups, including the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), but coercion and abductions have been reported in the past few days, adding to the worries of the administration.
A Central Reserve Police Force jawan and the son of a Bharatiya Janata Party office-bearer were killed when supporters of the BJP and Congress clashed in Dimapur, the state's commercial capital, on Friday.
The same day, indiscriminate firing by a Samata Party candidate in Mokokchung district injured twenty villagers, report said.
In a memorandum to K J Rao, consultant to the Election Commission, the ruling Congress on Friday said its workers were under threat from the NSCN (I-M) in several districts.
Hokheto Sumi, working president of the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee, had said a few days ago that the NSCN (I-M) was the biggest threat to the democratic process.
"We have complained directly to Deputy Prime Minister [Lal Kishenchand Advani] because nobody is doing anything about it," he said.
The PCC chief said at least eight party workers had been abducted and asked to keep away from their leaders.
"It has become dangerous for Congress workers to even canvass for candidates," he said.
Congress workers alleged that there is a tacit understanding between the BJP and the NSCN (I-M) cadres.
The NSCN (I-M) and the local unit of the BJP have denied the allegations.
"The NSCN (I-M) is always blamed for anything untoward in Nagaland. The Government of India has imposed the elections. It is now up to the Election Commission to inquire what is wrong," the convenor of the outfit's ceasefire monitoring cell, Phungthing Shimrang, said.
Reiterating that his outfit has no intention of interfering in the elections, he said the Naga electorate is intelligent enough to realise that Chief Minister S C Jamir has done nothing for them during his tenure.
BJP leader Hokishe Sema, who is being projected as a chief ministerial candidate by the BJP-led alliance, said, "The NSCN (I-M) has given its word that it will not interfere or participate in the elections. There is no reason to disbelieve them. The Congress is raising the allegation just to divert the people's attention."
Meanwhile, over two-thirds of the 1,583 polling stations have been categorised as 'sensitive' or 'hypersensitive', indicating that the state administration expects violence on February 26.
A three-tier security set-up comprising 10 battalions of the Nagaland Armed Police, 75 companies of the CRPF and several Assam Rifles units is in place.