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No-vote stand at Sissen

- Arunachal villagers demand road link, boycott polls

Itanagar, April 11: The standoff between the 135 voters of Sissen village in East Siang district in Arunachal Pradesh and election officials continued for the third consecutive day as they stuck to their “no road, no vote” stance in protest against the absence of proper road connectivity to their village.

On April 9, protesters had damaged around 10 to 15 metres of the hanging bridge that connects their village to the district headquarters of Pasighat to prohibit the entry of poll and security officials.

Around 15km from Pasighat, the villagers claim that infrastructure development has been hampered by negligence and absence of political will for decades. Though the village is near the oldest town in Arunachal Pradesh, there are no proper roads leading to it.

Three weeks before election, the Sissen Welfare Society had submitted a memorandum before the East Siang deputy commissioner, stating that they would be boycotting the elections as a sign of protest against the lack of development in the area.

Frustrated by the absence of a proper road link to the village, voters stayed away from the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections on April 9.

The president of Sissen Welfare Society, Tajir Siram, who has been leading the agitation, said the protest will not be called off until villagers are assured that that their grievances will be looked into.

“The state government has neglected us. Our protest will continue,” Siram said.

Siram feels that the area has been treated unfairly by successive governments and that its potential to become an important epicentre for the horticulture sector has been damaged by infrastructure lapses.

Activist Karunath Pazing said, “The village can become self-sustainable if it is connected with a proper road. The village has huge potential for development in the horticulture and agriculture sectors. A proper link road will boost the local economy,” said Pazing.

He added that protesters would stage demonstrations at Panging, Boleng and Pasighat towns and appealed that a road be constructed from the Dite-Dime area to Pongging, which will not only connect Sissen but the surrounding villages of Riew, Beging, Rasing, Komsing and Pangi as well.

On April 9, government authorities filed an FIR against the protesters after they cut off the lone hanging bridge to the village.

Election officials are expected to try and conduct polls again in a day or two.

However, the protesters said if they are unable to hold off the officials, they would opt for the NOTA option.

Sissen village comes under the Panging in Arunachal East parliamentary constituency.

Chief electoral officer Chandra Bhushan Kumar said he is awaiting further details.

Following reports of poll-related violence in an otherwise peaceful election, repolling is likely to be held in 23 polling stations in seven Assembly constituencies across three districts of the state.

Official sources said EVMs were destroyed in nine polling stations of Daporijo, Raga and Dumporijo constituencies in Upper Subansiri district.

Seven people are reported to have sustained injuries at Lecham village under Daporijo Assembly constituency and are currently under treatment.

Similar incidents were also reported from four polling stations in the Aalo West constituency.

The BJP’s election agent lodged a complaint with election authorities alleging that Congress workers destroyed the EVMs in a “pre-planned manner”.

In East Kameng district, violence erupted in eight polling stations under Chayangtajo, Seppa and Bameng Assembly constituencies.

Election officials from Byale Sulung polling station in Chayangtajo constituency were reportedly returning to the district headquarter of Seppa when goons confronted them in Marjingla village and set fire to the EVMs.

The East Kameng district media centre also said no votes were registered in the two polling stations of Yakli and Veo in Chayangtajo constituency.

Officials returning with EVMs from Jawa Camp and Lapung polling stations of Bameng constituency in East Kameng district were also attacked by unknown persons who pelted stones at their bus before snatching away the EVMs.

Sources said re-polling has been requested at Rikung and Lorah polling stations following clashes. All polling stations where re-polling has been recommended fall under the Arunachal West Parliamentary constituency.

Inspector-general of police (law and order) Satyendra Garg said 63 cases of poll-related violence were reported this time, which is a decrease of 70 per cent from the 2009 elections when 191 incidents were reported.