Independent candidate abducted, arms snatched
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, February 17: Even as the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is set to arrive at Tamenglong district headquarters for election campaigning armed persons suspected to be cadres of the NSCN (IM) abducted an independent candidate and decamped with 12 service weapons from security escorts provided to the candidate.

According to police source, the incident took place in the early hours today when about 25-30 well-armed persons intruded to the Tamenglong Ward No II residence of the independent candidate named Khangthuanang Panmei and overpowered the security personnel before leaving with Khangthuanang and 12 of the service weapons.

Family sources confirming the abduction stated that 12 personnel of the 5th Manipur Rifles deployed as security escort could not react to the situation or open fire at the intruders who wore combat attires.

Soon after the abduction family members lodged complaints to the District election Officer and police authorities concerned.

They also maintained that the armed intruders momentarily detained several persons present in the house, smashed window and door glasses, damaged wind shields of two Jeeps, one Tata Sumo and a Shaktiman truck in addition to setting fire to a motorcycle parked inside the residential compound.

In addition to damaging around eight other vehicles by the intruders, complaint lodged to the offices of DEO and CEO also listed two mobile phone handsets, three SBBL license guns and one .22 pistol confiscated by the armed men who are also accused of beating up 20 political workers and pushing down a Maruti Gypsy (MN04/2328) at a nearby gorge.

Khangthuanang is said to have contested the previous election on Congress I ticket.

Sources also disclosed that representative of State Government had already reported the abduction and arson cases to the interlocutor of the Govt of India-NSCN (IM) peace parleys K Padmanabhaiah and Chairman of Ceasefire Monitoring Cell Lt Gen Kulkarni.

Acting swiftly, Padmanabhaiah is informed to have instructed top functionaries of the Naga rebel group to release the abducted candidate and handover the snatched weapons.

Even though there is no report of any positive gesture from the NSCN (IM) to the peace talks interlocutor�s instruction it is learnt that hectic negotiations have began on the matter.

The source further informed that all the 12 MR personnel have been placed under suspension with immediate effect.

Arms snatched from the security personnel include seven SLRs, four 303 rifles and a carbine.

Taking into account seriousness of the incident, the Chief Electoral Officer, manipur has conveyed the case to Election Commission of India.

When enquired, the CEO RR Rashmi explained that as the abducted Khangthuanang is an independent candidate there is no electoral legislation that the ensuing poll should be countermanded.

Along with Chandel, Churachandpur and Jiribam sub-division, Tamenglong is also going to the polls in the third place election slated for February 23. Providing further details on rules governing electoral practices, Rashmi said election could be rescheduled/countermanded under the provision of Section-52 of People�s Representative Act in case of untimely death of nominee of recognised/registered political organisation.

In such case meeting would be held with functionary of the political party concerned within seven days and asked to nominate a new candidate to prepare renewed schedule, he added.

Newmai News Network adds: While Tamenglong police station registered a case on the incident under various Sections of the IPC covering Arms Act, a rally was organised in and around the district headquarters this morning against the abduction of Khangthuanang.

The rallyists also submitted a memorandum to the district�s Deputy Commission urging the incumbent to take possible measures in ensuring free and fair polling as well as to ensure safe release of the abducted candidate.

Further report said that some supporters of the candidate had been admitted at the District Hospital after the unidentified armed persons beat them up.

Meanwhile, elaborate security arrangements have been taken up in the district with SPG personnel already stationed in the district hqs since yesterday in connection with the proposed arrival of Dr Manmohan Singh tomorrow.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to address an election rally in the district headquarters to canvass support for the Congress party.