| K. Chhawnthuama outside the police station in Aizawl on Tuesday. Picture by Zodin Sanga |
The first episode of Mizoram’s own Phantom saga that haunted the April 11 Lok Sabha polls has ended up in jail after the arrest of the protagonist on Monday.
K. Chhawnthuama, a 61-year-old Church elder and owner of a reputed school in Aizawl, was arrested by Mizoram police from a hotel in Guwahati with an aide in connection with allegations of EVM rigging he had levelled against chief minister Lal Thanhawla-led Congress in the 2013 Assembly polls.
Chhawnthuama, who is still in police custody in Aizawl, has told police that he did not have any evidence of rigging other than those fabricated ones provided to him by two tricksters who the police have identified as Lalmuan-hlua and Michael Chhakchhuak.
In support of the police’s earlier statement, Chhawnthuama has also “confessed” to giving Rs 15 lakh to Chhakchhuak to collect “evidences” of the EVM rigging.
Chhawnthuama, according to the police statement issued today, has also disclosed that he had never met his “non-Mizo scientist friend” who he frequently referred to during his interview to local TV in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.
The EVM rigging allegations began with threatening text messages sent to chief minister Lal Thanhawla in December last year just after the announcement of Assembly polls results that saw the Congress winning 34 of the total 40 seats.
The sender, who identified himself as “Phantom” after the popular Lee Falk comic character, alleged that the Congress’s landslide victory was a result of EVM rigging. The police traced the SMSs to Chhawnthuama, who confessed to have sent the text messages. He was arrested and later released on bail.
In the run-up to the April 11 Lok Sabha elections, Chhawnthuama appeared before local TV twice disclosing what he claimed to be “evidences of the EVM rigging”.
For the second time on April 4, the “Phantom” appeared before local TVs, this time going into more details on how the EVMs, used in the last Assembly polls, were rigged. The video was uploaded by his supporters on social media, and became the hottest election issue. Chhawnthuama alleged that Lal Thanhawla would have lost both Serchhip and Hrangturzo and at least three Congress ministers would have been defeated had it not been for EVM rigging.
The “whistle-blowing video” triggered a protest rally in Aizawl the following day demanding resignation of Lal Thanhawla and his MLAs.
The superintendent of police, Aizawl, on April 8 issued a press statement rubbishing the allegations. It dismissed the “evidences” provided by Chhawnthuama as fabricated information provided by a trickster who they identified as C. Lalbiakmawia, 31, alias Michael Chhakchhuak. The police, Chhawnthuama had paid about Rs 17 lakh to him for the wrong information.
In his second video, Chhawnthuama alleged that two persons from the Congress’s media department were involved in the EVM rigging. This prompted the media department to file an FIR against Chhawnthuama, which finally resulted in his arrest. The police also found that Chhawnthuama had travelled under the fictitious name of R. Lalmawia. A hunt is on for the two tricksters.