India to Redo Election Voting at Polling Stations Hit by Violence

India to Redo Election Voting at Polling Stations Hit by Violence

By Oghale Apr22,2024

India’s election authorities have directed officials to redo voting at several polling places in the troubled northeastern state of Manipur, after armed men attacked polling stations and captured voting booths despite the presence of dozens of paramilitary soldiers.

The state of Manipur has endured ethnic conflict for months after a dispute erupted over who gets to claim a tribal status that grants extra privileges, for example preferential treatment in seeking government jobs.

The conflict, which began last May, has essentially split the region, home to about three million people, pitting two ethnic groups against each other: the mostly Hindu Meiteis, who form a narrow majority, and members of Christian hill tribes known as Kukis. More than 200 people have been killed, members of both groups. Thousands were internally displaced and still fear returning to places they once called home, seeking refuge in squalid camps.

The Election Commission of India said on Saturday that voting would be done again on Monday in 11 polling stations where voting had been held on Friday.

The order came after the region’s top election commissioner wrote to his agency describing mob violence, gunfire, damage to electronic voting machines and bogus voters entering the booths.

Video footage from the Inner Manipur constituency, one of the two seats in the state for the lower house of Parliament, showed mobs raiding a polling station and breaking electronic voting machines.

At another station, members of an armed gang were seen threatening voters. One women said that when she arrived to vote, she found that the votes of her entire family had already been cast. One person was also injured by gunfire.

Tens of thousands of soldiers have been deployed to prevent violence in different parts of the country, as the voting continues till June 1 to elect the country’s next prime minister. Local residents in Manipur said that soldiers had tried to keep order but were overpowered by people, mostly women, who rushed into the voting booths, and intimidated by the presence of armed men.

Members of opposition political groups say the problems were not confined to the 11 polling places that will get a do-over, and are calling for new voting in more than 45 polling booths in 12 areas of Manipur.

Keisham Meghachandra, a top leader of the opposition Indian National Congress in Manipur, said that members of armed gangs supportive of the incumbent government had threatened candidates and voters the day before the elections and on the day of polling even fired at a polling station.

“It was mass rigging,” Mr. Meghachandra said. “Violence happened in places where majority of voters are unhappy with both local and Modi government.”

Manipur is run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and led by Nongthombam Biren Singh. An adviser to Mr. Singh, the state’s chief minister, did not answer calls on Sunday.

Across India, the first phase of voting took place on Friday in 102 parliamentary seats, but six phases still remain, with results to be announced on June 4.

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By Oghale

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