Manipur re-votes after violence, but the Kukis boycott the polls
by Nirmala Carvalho

In the state shaken by ethnic conflict for a year now, even the vote for the federal parliament has become an occasion for confrontation with assaults and accusations of fraud against the local government led by the BJP. Extraordinary re-opening of the polls today in 11 polling stations. In tribal-inhabited areas, many polling stations remained completely deserted in protest.

Imphal (AsiaNews) - In the state of Manipur, serious new tensions are also accompanying the Indian general elections. Violence that occurred already on Friday 19th - the day of the first of the seven electoral rounds, which also affected this state - led today to the extraordinary reopening of voting operations in 11 polling stations in the Inner Manipur constituency, which also includes the capital Imphal.

The vote is taking place amid heavy security measures, after incidents of gunfire, intimidation and destruction of voting machines in some voting booths were reported on Friday. The Congress Party had called for a statewide re-vote claiming that the elections were rigged.

In Manipur, the Kuki-Zo-Hmar community boycotted the elections, as both the Union and local governments - also led by the Hindu nationalists of the BJP - have failed to find solutions to the ethnic violence that has been ongoing for a year.

The 24 polling stations designated as "special polling stations" for displaced voters, the three "model polling stations" (those set up in India to facilitate voting by the elderly and disabled) and the majority of the 77 polling stations run exclusively by women saw a "zero turnout" until the end of voting.

The Kuki-Zo community constitutes a large section of the population in most polling stations in the three constituencies of Saikul, Kangpokpi and Saitu, while some polling stations have Naga and Nepalese voters.

The empty seats echo the Kuki-Zo community's strong dissatisfaction with the government. The Committee for Tribal Unity (COTU) of the Kangpokpi district - which also saw the killing of two other Kuki volunteers two days ago, presumably by an armed group from the valley - declared that the entire community is abstaining from voting.

The Kuki National Assembly (KNA) also condemned the killing of two "village defense volunteers" in Kangpokpi district, and called on Kuki-Zo tribesmen not to vote in the elections to protest what it called atrocities against the tribes. “If inflicting suffering on us is considered a right in India, then we choose not to participate in the Indian Parliament elections,” the KNA said in a statement signed by its spokesperson Mangboi Haokip.