Shillong, Feb. 19: In a first-of-its-kind, the proscribed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) today declared a boycott of the February 23 polls by calling a 36-hour bandh.
“On behalf of the Hynniewtrep people, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) has unanimously declared to boycott the February 23 elections to protest against the Indian political system,” HNLC publicity secretary Sainkupar Nongtraw said in a statement.
He announced that a 36-hour bandh would be observed in the entire Hynniewtrep (Khasi-Jaintia hills region) with effect from 6pm of February 22 to 6am of February 24.
During these hours, essential and emergency services, media and religious activities would be exempted from the purview of the bandh, Nongtraw added.
Meghalaya will elect its 60 legislators to the ninth Legislative Assembly on February 23 across 11 districts (six in Khasi-Jaintia hills and five in Garo hills). There are 345 candidates in the fray spread across 36 constituencies under Khasi-Jaintia hills and 24 in the Garo hills.
“According to the declaration of the UNO to the world’s indigenous people, the Centre should recognise the right to self-determination and self-government to Hynniewtrep and its people. Before the aggression of the imperialist government of India, Hynniewtrep was an independent nation till the forceful agreement (instrument of accession and annexed agreement) in 1948,” Nongtraw stated.
The HNLC publicity secretary also said the issue was not an administrative problem but a political one.
“If the government of India fails to respond to the issues in the interest of Hynniewtrep, the HNLC will continue to boycott and disrupt all Indian elections, including the Lok Sabha elections. We urge the Hynniewtrep people to keep away from the polls,” Nongtraw added.
State chief electoral officer Prashant Naik, while reacting to the bandh call, said, “Whether a bandh has been called on the day of polling or otherwise, our duty is to maintain law and order on election day.”