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Boycott threat over boundary impasse

Kohima, April 7: The situation is still tense along the Nagaland-Assam border, as people in the area have threatened to boycott the April 9 polls in the state because of the unresolved border issue.

The Nagaland government has taken up matter with the Union home ministry and it is also in touch with Assam.

“We are in touch with Assam at the highest level,” said chief electoral officer Sentiyanger Ao, adding that he was in touch with his counterpart in Assam.

The district administrations of Longleng and Sivasagar are also constantly in touch to defuse the tension.

The resident of Longleng district said they would boycott the polls if the state government did not restore the polling station at Ladigarh, which has been “occupied” by Assam police since 2007.

The Phom Peoples’ Council has written to Ao, while the election office has requested the council not to boycott the polls. “I am in touch with the Phom Peoples’ Council,” he said.

The election office has assured the council that it would arrange an alternative polling station nearby but the people have rejected the idea.

The chief electoral officer said the issue was serious in nature. He said forcibly removing armed Assam police at Ladigarh polling station could lead to confrontation between the two states.

He, however, said efforts were being made to settle the issue at the earliest.

Armed Assam police have forcibly occupied a government primary school building, which used to be a polling station in 2007. There are 37,233 voters in Longleng district. To thwart untoward incident in the area, the state government would deploy five companies of police on polling day to maintain law and order. “They will be deployed only for law and order and not for election duty,” Ao said.

In Dimapur district, the Aghunaqa Kukami Kughakulu has decided to boycott the polls on the ground that polling stations were not opened in the area. But the chief electoral officer said based on a directive of the Supreme Court to maintain a status quo in the dispute area the state election departments has decided not to open polling stations in the Aghunaqa area under Niuland subdivision.

The election department has set up a polling station for 38 village of the Aghunaqa area at Khuhuboto where some people have to walk more than 10km to cast their votes. There were more than 10,000 voters in the Aghunaqa area.

Ao said he cannot force people to come and vote nor open a polling booth in the area as the state has to follow the directive of the Supreme Court. But he appealed to the people of Longleng and Aghunaqa to come out and vote.

Around 11,82,948 voters, including 5,376 service voters comprising 6,00,490 male and 5,82,458 female voters, will cast their vote on April 9.

There are 2,059 polling stations in the state where 113 will be manned by only women. There are 36,159 first-time voters.

Altogether 14,735 security personnel will be deployed for poll duty.

So far, 1,536 polling stations have been identified as normal, 429 as vulnerable and 94 as critical. Altogether 84 polling stations will be connected with webcasting.

“The Election Commission has initiated the idea of webcasting to monitor the election process in order to reduce illegal activities such as booth capturing, bogus voting and other malpractices to ensure free and fair elections,” Ao said.

To check proxy voting, the state election department has issued EPICs to 1,10,5,450 voters while the remaining voters will be allowed to use government alternative identity cards issued by competent authorities.

The smallest polling station is at Yankeli village in Wokha district with 32 voters.

Around 10,295 government employees will be deployed on election duty with total of 2059 EVMs. The Election Commission has appointed five observers.

The election department has taken serious note of village councils passing a resolution in favour for certain candidate, which is totally against the democratic process. “We have taken a serious view,” Ao said.

He vowed to check such malpractices in the elections.

There were reports of village councils in some areas not only passing resolutions but have decided to cast votes by members of village councils for the entire village. But the Election Commission has never taken cognisance of such undemocratic practice.

“By tradition, Nagas have a strong sense of democracy and participation in election is a demonstration of one’s faith in the process,” the Ao said.

He appealed to people to vote ethically.