| Khasi women cast their vote at a booth in Umpling locality of Shillong on Tuesday (PTI)
New Delhi, April 20: The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) today decided to boycott the general elections after the Election Commission refused to retract its order allowing the Chakmas and Hajongs the right to vote.
The boycott decision was announced after an AAPSU delegation’s last-minute efforts to convince the Election Commission to cancel the names of the 1,497 voters enrolled in the poll list last month failed to make any impact.
“We had no option but to give a call to the people to boycott the elections. The Centre has refused to budge from its position,” said AAPSU president Byabang Taj, who was part of the four-member student delegation.
Arunachal Pradesh goes to the polls in the third phase of elections on May 5.
Though the students managed to submit a memorandum to the poll panel highlighting their demands, their request for an appointment with the chief election commissioner was not entertained.
The students, along with representatives of the Arunachal Students’ Union Delhi and the Arunachal Citizens’ Rights, also demonstrated in front of Jantar Mantar to draw attention to their demands.
Earlier, the delegates called on Union law minister Arun Jaitley to discuss the matter.
Jaitley, who held talks on the issue with the law secretary and officials of the poll panel yesterday, informed the students of the commission’s stand.
“The Election Commission officials told Jaitley that they were following a Supreme Court judgment, which means that they will stick to their earlier decision,” Arunachal Citizens’ Rights chairman Bamang Anthony said.
In a judgment passed in 1996, the Supreme Court had ordered that the procedure to grant citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs be initiated.
The delegates, however, maintained that the Chakmas and Hajongs should not be granted voting rights as they did not possess necessary documents like the inner line permit.
The Chakmas and Hajongs, who arrived in the hill state from Bangladesh in the mid-sixties, are the fourth largest community in Arunachal Pradesh after the Adis, Nishis, and Mishmis.
Cutting across party lines, successive governments in Itanagar have opposed their permanent settlement in the state.
The core committee, comprising representatives of all parties, has supported the AAPSU’s decision to boycott the elections. However, candidates of all major parties filed nominations later in the day, ruling out the possibility of a total boycott.