Thousands of protest in Mizoram's capital Aizawl after home secretary is shunted out
Thousands of Mizos are holding a peaceful protest at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram. The state is on edge, following the tussle between civil society groups and the state's top poll officer after the latter ordered the removal of the home secretary, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, accusing him of interfering with the poll process. Assembly elections in Mizoram are scheduled on November 28.
Most schools, shops and offices are closed in Aizawl today. There is total shutdown in Mamit town as well, where scores of government employees are out on the streets. Protests are also being held in at least five other district headquarters.
The Election Commission has decided to send a three-member delegation to take charge of the situation, after the unprecedented scenario, where the common people and the state poll panel are at loggerheads. The delegation has been tasked with talking to the powerful civil society groups, which are backed by the church.
Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, requesting him to immediately remove the Chief Electoral Officer, SB Sashank. In his letter, the Chief Minister said, "The latest move by Election Commission, I am afraid, will further belittle the integration process of the government, especially with the new focus on Act East Policy."
Trouble started after Mr Sashank shot off a letter to the Election Commission, complaining of direct interference by home secretary, Lalnunmawia Chuaungo, in the revision of electoral rolls and asked the poll panel to remove him from his post.
Mr Sashank accused Mr Chuaungo, a 1987-batch Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, of objecting to facilitate voting for Mizoram's Bru refugees living in Tripura, for the Assembly elections. The Bru refugees had fled Mizoram almost 22 years ago after ethnic clashes.
The Election Commission immediately transferred Mr Chuaungo and barred him from office till the elections are over.
The influential Young Mizo Association (YMA), which is backed by the church, is protesting the transfer of the Mr Chuaungo, who is a local Mizo, and they want the removal of Mr Sashank.
The two main political parties in the state – Congress and the BJP – are supporting the protesters. The Congress, in power in the state, does not want to upset the voters, while the BJP is trying to make inroads in Mizoram in the November polls.