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'Guns of Manipur' loom large over Mizo polls

Written by  Oinam Sunil, TNN Published inHot Topics Saturday, 23 November 2013 14:17

AIZAWL: Elections in Manipur have always remained peaceful with the churches playing watchdog. However, clouds of unrest have been gathering in the horizon with the arrival of the "guns of Manipur".


The ruling Congress here has accused the Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP) of using "gun power" to force the Paite tribals to cast their votes in favour of ZNP. The party has elaborated on how these "guns of Manipur" were infiltrating into Mizoram.


Congress alleged that militants from the neighbouring state came in a Bolero SUV (bearing Manipur registration number) and intimidated voters in Paite tribe-dominated localities like Khuangphah, Selam, Vaikhawtlang, Ngaizawl, Murlen, Vapar and Ngur Vengsang in Champhai North constituency.


ZNP, however, has denied the allegation, terming it "a baseless charge". Interestingly, ZNP is a Congress ally in the Aizawl municipal council, but the two parties have decided to fight the assembly polls separately.


Champhai North Congress candidate TT Zothansanga has already lodged a complaint with the district election officer, saying a Paite NGO was asking voters to elect ZNP. He didn't mention the word 'militant' in his official complaint.


Lalthanglawra Ngurte, a member of Congress's media department, however, said, "Everyone knows that various militant outfits are backing ZNP. The seven assembly constituencies that share borders with Manipur are all vulnerable."


Opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) seems to be enjoying the fresh tussle between the Congress and ZNP. It's political affairs committee member F Aithanga also accused ZNP of seeking help from armed rebels from Manipur.


Sources said the Hmar and Paite tribal militants from neighbouring Churchandpur district of Manipur have already entered Mizoram and were backing certain candidates with whom they have an "understanding".


Rejecting these charges, ZNP vice-president K Liantlinga said the party neither extorts vote by using gun power nor employs any armed activists from Manipur. "We abhor insurgency and we will never go against the guidelines laid down by Mizoram People's Forum," he added.


The Mizoram People's Forum (MPF) is a church-sponsored election watchdog that works to ensure free and fair polls in the state. The MPF, reacting on the controversy, said the model code of conduct seems to have been violated in various parts of the state.


MPF appealed all political parties not to cooperate with militants. It also urged the state government to make better security arrangements during any election campaign.


The church-sponsored forum also condemned the November 20 incident where a person in Khawlian village, under Chalfilh constituency, was shot at by some unidentified gunmen. It said that if any candidate or party was found to have any links with the attackers, then that candidate or party would be asked to "abandon" the election.

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