Former chief secretary joins chorus for Mizoram CEO's ouster
They urged the EC to defranchise all Bru voters who chose to stay back in Tripura and did not return to Mizoram
Joining the chorus for Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S B Shashank's ouster, former Mizoram chief secretary Lalfak Zuala on Monday said the senior poll official was wrong in "working against Principal Secretary (home) Lalnunmawia Chuaungo". NGO Coordination Committee, an umbrella body of major civil societies and student organisations, had sought Shashank's exit from the state, shortly after the Election Commission (EC) removed principal secretary-level state officer Lalnunmawia Chuaungo. Shashank had complained to the EC that Chuaungo was interfering with the poll process.
He also hinted at intrusion in electoral roll revision and deployment of central armed police forces (CAPF) in the state. Elections to the 40-member Mizoram Assembly are scheduled to be held on November 28. Lalfak Zuala, who is also a senior member of Zoram People's Forum (ZPM), said the CEO should have complained against the state government to the EC, as Chuaungo had taken the decision in coordination with the top officials. "Chuango must have consulted the state chief secretary, the home minister and the chief minister before making a move. That is usually how the state administration functions," he asserted. The subject of law and order is also in the hands of the state government, Zuala said.
"The number of CAPF personnel to be deployed during the election should be determined by the state as the home department officials and the DGP are the right people to assess the requirement. "It was wrong on the part of the CEO to work against Chuaungo" he added. Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawala wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking immediate removal of state Shashank to ensure "smooth conduct of the November 28 elections". He said people of Mizoram have lost faith in the CEO after he complained to the EC about Chuaungo. Shashank, on his part, said he was fulfilling his responsibilities in accordance with EC mandate.
Talking about his fallout with Chuaungo, the CEO said he had issued a statement to the District Election Officers (DEO) and Electoral Registration Officers (ERO) on September 11 to notify that "identification slips could be used as valid documents by eligible Bru migrants in Tripura". Chuaungo, however, issued another order on September 13, asking the Bru refugees to refrain from using the identification slips, except for the purpose of repatriation, Shashank said. Thousands of people of the Bru tribe were forced to leave Mizoram and move to tripura after ethnic violence in the state in 1997. The CEO also alleged that the principal secretary and Mizoram Chief Secretary Arvind Ray did not issue any clarification on the September 13 order, despite the EC's instructions.
"As the state chief electoral officer, it is my duty to intimate the EC about the developments. I can only hope that the civil societies will understand my position. I am sorry if I have hurt anybody," he told reporters. NGO Coordination Committee, however, sought Shashank's exit at the earliest and issued a statement to say it would picket the state election office from Tuesday. In the past, too, the civil society organisations had opposed the Election Commission's decision to conduct electoral revision of Bru voters in Tripura relief camps. They urged the EC to defranchise all Bru voters who chose to stay back in Tripura and did not return to Mizoram.
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