Unprecedented violence mars first phase IS polls in state
Non-BJP candidates flay widespread proxy voting by armed men, demand re-election; 68.62 pc 'polled'

Source: Chronicle News Service

Imphal, April 19 2024: Widespread violence, never experienced at-least in the valley districts in past assembly or parliamentary elections, marked the first phase of general election to the 18th Lok Sabha, 2024 as reports of intimidating the voters, opening fire at polling stations, causing injuries to an elderly voter, etc., continued to trickle till late evening.

As per report from CEO Manipur, voting percentage in Outer Manipur parliamentary constituency reached 61.98 percent as of 5pm Friday and 72.32 per cent in Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency thereby averaging 68.62 percent.

Voting at some polling stations of Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency continued till 6.30 pm.

Among others, reports have been received of large scale proxy voting in 4/44 Pioneer Academy polling station at Bamon Kampu under Keirao assembly constituency by armed men, who reportedly plucked out the CCTV camera and resorted to proxy voting.

Miffed by the unruly conduct, locals stormed the polling booth and destroyed the EVM machine.

In Thongju assembly constituency too, armed men showed up at 5/31 National Children School polling station around 8.30 am, ordered exit of inner agents of all parties, except for BJP, and carried out proxy voting after removing the CCTV camera.

There too, local people stormed the polling station and damaged the EVM.

The same group of armed men went to 5/32 Khongman Zone-5 community hall polling station and cast proxy votes.

Enraged people stopped the poll process.

Later, Thongju MLA Th Biswajit of BJP came there and tried to pacify the voters to resume voting.

After some heated argument, people agreed to resume voting but those who entered the polling station on the pretext of casting their votes, destroyed the EVM.

A new EVM was brought around 2 pm and voting was resumed.

However, INC candidate Prof Bimol, who arrived shortly after, found only the presiding officer and inner agent of BJP inside the polling station.

He raised complaint with the presid ing officer and left after saying that he will lodge complaint to the ECI.

After he left, MLA Biswajit arrived once again at the polling station and voting was resumed by distributing token.

RJSP candidate Moirangthem Totomsana also arrived at the polling station around 4.30 pm and said that he will raise complaint with ECI to order re-poll in the polling station.

Tension erupted between police personnel and armed men in 5/33.Okram Chuthek Naharol Yaipha Thourang Club, 5/18 & 5/19 Ningomthong Wangkhei Nongpok Primary School polling stations as the armed men insisted on casting the votes of village volunteers, who could not come for the election.

However, the presiding officer opposed their proposition, which resulted in tension.

However, local people controlled the situation and prevented unwanted incidents from occurring.

Meanwhile, former BJYM president Manoharmayum Barish Sharma vandalised the polling booth of INC candidate Prof Bimol at Wangkhei Meihoubam Lampak under Wangkhei assembly constituency around noon accusing the Congress supporters of gathering in large number.

However, he did not touch the BJP polling booth adjacent to the INC's.He hurriedly left the scene as local people gathered and confronted him.

He also threatened a woman, who recorded the incident on her mobile phone.

In Uripok assembly constituency, armed men called out polling agents and threatened them around 11.30 am, enraged the locals, who then destroyed the EVMs at 10/6 Iroishemba Upper Primary School (West Wing) and 10/7 Iroishemba Upper Primary School (middle wing) polling stations.

The situation brought the polling process to a halt in both polling stations as well as 10/1 Iroishemba Upper Primary School (East wing).

As per reports received from the presiding officers of the polling stations, 166 out of 518 electors cast their votes at 10/6 polling station, 224 out of 674 at 10/7 polling station and 290 out of 957 voters at 10/1 polling station before the EVMs were destroyed and poll process stopped.

As the local people protested the intimidation, SP Imphal West Ksh Shivakanta arrived there to assess the situation.

However, poll process could not be continued.

RPI-A candidate Maheshwar Thounaojam and independent candidate Moirangthem Totomsana Nongsaba also arrived at these polling stations and told media persons that they will raise demands for re-poll in all the three polling stations.

Reacting against the chaos-filled election, INC candidate Prof Angomcha Bimol Akoijam voiced vehement condemnation against the ruling party, calling the violence, threats, and intimidation tactics as egregious violations of democratic principles.

Expressing outrage, the candidate highlighted that such actions not only undermine the electoral process but also erode the fundamental ethos of democracy, which thrives on peaceful expression of differing viewpoints and fair participation of all citizens in the electoral process.

An INC agent was assaulted and shots were fired towards his house by unidentified armed men at 6/3 Kyamgei Heibong Makhong High School polling station in Kyamgei Awang Leikai under Keirao assembly constituency.

Visiting the family, Prof Bimol termed the threat and intimidation to electors as an act of cowardice.

It is unfortunate that these armed men are resorting to assault and strangle mothers, he said and asked what kind of patriotism was that.

Recounting that he was detained by police for leading protest against the brutal murder of Thangjam Manorama, Prof Bimol said he understands what nationalism means.

These acts of threatening and opening fire were not carried out by Kukis but by one's own people.

Strongly condemning such intimidation against own community, he affirmed to continue to contest elections until he exposes who are the real patriots and who are the traitors.

Stating that he has been tolerating threats and intimidation considering the perpetrators as own brothers, the candidate, however, asked the organisations indulging in election-related violence to publicly clarify the reason.

"This is like Kuki attacking the people.

Think carefully.

If this continues, we all will sink along with you," an enraged Bimol said and advised those responsible to stop their activities immediately and direct their attention towards protecting the state.

Calling those threatening the voters as the boots on the ground, he asked them to remember that they are being used by those helming the affairs.

Prof Bimol also expressed dismay over the deteriorating character and morality of the Meetei community.

Those who are controlling the crisis will face the wrath of the people when they realise those behind the nearly one year old violence in the state, and the result will not be pleasant, he cautioned.

In one of the election-related violent incidents, a man was shot at by unidentified armed men at Polling Station number 3/14 at Moirang Kampu Primary School in Imphal East district around 2 pm on Friday.

The injured person, identified as Khoisnam Sanayaima (70) of Moirang Kampu Sajeb, is undergoing treatment at Raj medicity after suffering a gunshot wound at the abdomen.

The incident occurred when armed miscreants arrived in a Fortuner XUV and fired indiscriminately.

Upon receiving the report, a team of Imphal East district police pursued the vehicle involved in the incident, along with other vehicles travelling together.

Among the vehicles, a speeding Maruti Ciaz car heading towards the Imphal-Ukhrul road was intercepted by a special commando team near Sajiwa jail.

Three individuals in the car were apprehended and handed over to the Porompat police for further investigation.

Meanwhile, people vandalised the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) at polling station number 4/13 in Top Naoriya North (A) as unidentified armed individuals attempted to take control of the polling station.

They tried to forcibly cast votes, disrupting the orderly queue of voters already present, around 11:10 am.

Voting resumed around 2 pm after the authorities concerned replaced the damaged EVM.

Upon receiving reports of these unfortunate incidents, security flying squads and the district police in Imphal East promptly took appropriate measures to ensure the smooth continuation of the polling process.

Armed men also fired several rounds in the air near a polling booth in Thamnapokpi under Moirang assembly constituency in Bishnupur district, prompting voters to flee and deployment of additional security personnel to contain the situation.

Unidentified armed men also intimidated election agents of a particular political party at different places and asked them to leave the polling stations.

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