Despite the Election Commission of India (ECI) and Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Manipur claim that the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2022 has been conducted peacefully in two phases – Phase-1 on February 28 and Phase-2 on March 5, violent incidents occurred before and during the polls of the Manipur Election 2022.
The 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly elections, 2022, which were held in two phases across 2,968 polling stations in 60 constituencies of nine electoral districts witnessed 89.24 per cent overall voter turnout.
However, electoral violence before or during polls of the Manipur Legislative Assembly Election has never been like the violence unfolded this time in Manipur.
Manipur has witnessed violence in Andro and Heirok Assembly Constituencies (AC) besides, Naoriya Pakhanglakpa AC and Wangoi AC as many incidents had occurred in the run-up to the election.
The first pre-poll violence occurred in Andro AC as early as October 11, 2021. In Andro constituency, at least six persons were injured in a clash that broke out between two groups belonging to rival candidates who were all Bharatiya Jana Party (BJP) ticket aspirants of Andro assembly constituency. Later, the second BJP ticket aspirant, Lourembam Sanjoy joined the National People’s Party (NPP). The father of NPP candidate was shot at.
In Heirok, a student was shot dead by supporters of rival candidate and injured three others including the father of the deceased student. Police found several empty shells of bullet rounds fired during the night lying around in the streets of Heirok Bazar. District police had to call in reinforcements from other districts to control the developing situation which at any time may explode.
In Wangoi AC, two cousins including personnel of Manipur Police Commando said to be workers of the BJP candidate Oinam Lukhoi were shot dead on January 9 night.
Bullets from single or double barrel guns, licensed or unlicensed, were flying around and injuring even bystanders. Shooting at the gates and even to the bedrooms of the workers of the rival candidates were reported from across several Assembly Constituencies.
Electoral violence during pre-poll election campaign or during polling hours has never been like this serious. Unfortunately, this is the first since 1980s shooting a candidate. The Janata Dal (United) candidate for Kshetrigao AC Wahengbam Rojit aka Bullet was shot at by unidentified persons on the eve of the polling day.
It seems the violence had moved elsewhere in Thoubal district and in the hill districts of Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati, this time around.
Incidents of violence at several constituencies across six election districts marred the second phase of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Elections 2022 on March 5 and claimed two lives despite Election Commission’s security measures in all polling stations of the 22 Assembly Constituencies (AC). A total of 4,988 polling personnel were deployed in all polling stations.
In Senapati district, one person was reportedly killed and another injured by security forces deployed for election duty at the polling station at Ngamju village in the Karong constituency. In a letter written to the returning officer of Karong AC by Ngaoni R James, the election agent to the BJP candidate, due to a gunshot, K Longvao, son of T Kah lost his life, whereas V Saope, son of S Vane was severely injured and battling for his life, he stated.
In another incident, armed miscreants shot a BJP worker early morning on March 5 at Wangjing Wangkhei situated in Wangjing-Tentha AC. The victim has been identified as one Leimapokpam Amuba, 25, son of L. Binoy of Wangjing Hodamba Maning Leikai. Amuba sustained three bullets on his belly. He was brought to Raj Medicity, Imphal, but succumbed to his injuries around 6 am.
In a separate incident, unknown persons burnt down the house of one Rakesh Naorem at Tentha which also falls under Wangjing-Tentha constituency. The incident occurred in the intervening night of March 4 and 5.
Another electoral violence was also reported from Tengnoupal AC. Stray incidents of poll violence at polling station of Khudei Khunou, “A minor scuffle took place at 42/29 polling station in Tengnoupal AC at around 9 am, but the matter was settled peacefully and the election process was restored,” reports quoting the DEO said.
Meanwhile, in Nungba AC under Noney district, barely a few hours before the polling began on March 5 a voter alleged that some UG cadres came to Congress Camp around 3 am on March 5 at Bwanruangh Taudaizaeng village and threatened that only 100 votes can be cast for Congress candidate. Bwanruangh Taudaizaeng village is located nearly 19 km away from Nungba HQ, reports added.
According to a statement issued by the People’s Election Monitoring team of the Youth Collective Manipur (YCM) issued on March 11 said that they had documented 78 poll-related-violent-incidents including seven deaths in the Manipur-2022-Election. “So far, there have been no reports of authorities taking up appropriate actions against most of the electoral misconducts including those that occurred at many polling stations on election day, for instance threat and intimidation of party agents, manipulation and destruction of EVMs, proxy voting, booth capture etc.”, said YCM.
Thongam Zingo, Coordinator, People’s Election Monitoring team of YCM in a press release, also stated that the parameters for re-poll in few selected polling stations out of all those that filed complaints is not made public by the ECI.
It may be noted that the 2017-Election, which was much less violent than the 2022-Election, witnessed as much as 62 re-polls whereas only 19 re-polls are ordered this time. More than ever, it is necessary to act upon alleged violations and address the grievances so as not to further erode people’s confidence in the electoral process, said YCM.
“Another worrisome trend is the normalization of “gun-culture”. In the pre-election and election day lethal weapons were widely used to intimidate voters. In the post-election victory celebrations large-scale use of “gun-salutes”. The psychological, physical and political impact on the civilian population, who hold a different political view then the gun trotters, would be simply chilling. The growing gun culture is a direct affront to the free expression of the will of the people”, stated YCM.
According to a Facebook (FB) post by We support Leishiyo Keishing, a life attempt was allegedly made on Leishiyo Keishing between Nambashi Khullen and Nambashi Khunou while returning after casting his vote on March 5.
The FB post from Leishiyo Keishing’s support group stated that “A bomb had been planted on the main road. The Honourable Chairman had a narrow escape as he had taken the short cut road to Nambashi Khunou at around 9 am today (05/03/22)”.
He was elected as MLA from 43-Phungyar (ST) AC in the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly Elections as an NPF candidate for the term 2017–2022. He wins the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2022 too.
On the other hand, reports said that two supporters of Congress party were allegedly beaten up brutally by suspected cadres of NSCN (IM) at Lamlang Village under Ukhrul AC.
Condemning the incident, which reportedly took place between 6.30 pm and 7 pm on March 7, enraged residents of Lamlang village set on fire a Gypsy, in which the suspected NSCN-IM cadres came, reports added.
In another incident, local womenfolk of Chandel Christian Village reportedly-rounded up two armed cadres of NSCN-IM while they were trying to attack NPF candidate in Chandel Assembly Constituency Langhu Paulhring Anal on March 3 around 8.30 pm and handed them over to Chandel police station.
According to a complaint filed by the local women at Chandel PS, the two unknown armed cadres who claimed to be working in favour of BJP candidate SS Olish, came to attack NPF candidate Langhu, but before they could execute their plan, they were overpowered by the women of Nisha Bandh Committee. The two cadres were carrying knives and SBL guns along with several rounds of cartridges. On enquiring about their purpose of coming to the residence of NPF candidate, the leader of the group revealed that he belongs to Lamkang tribe and he is a member of NSCN-IM, who holds the rank of Leacy in NSCN-IM for Mantri Pantha village.
Further he disclosed his identity as D Khumsot Lamkang. He also revealed that he came to intimidate the NPF candidate and to create fear among the Anal community so as to influence the election result. Three SBL guns, military uniforms, 33 cartridges along with belts and one empty shell and three knives were recovered from them, reports said.
In another election related incident, at least five farmers were allegedly beaten by cadres of Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) which is under Suspension of Operation (SoO) Government of India (GOI) and Government of Manipur (GOM) at Suangphu village under Singngat Sub-Division, Churachandpur district on March 2.
Reports said the farmers were waylaid by the ZRA cadres while heading toward their paddy field at around 3.30 pm and taken to a designated camp at Muvanlai near Singngat Sub-Division Headquarters for thwarting an attempt to capture Suangphu Polling Station on February 28.
At the camp, the five farmers who are all residents of Suangphu village were allegedly beaten black and blue by the ZRA cadres.
The five persons, after being tortured, were forced to sign that they will not indulge in activities which are against the Zomi interest in future. The cadres also allegedly warned of serious consequence if they (the farmers) apprise anyone about the incident, reports added.
The ‘victims’ claimed that they were beaten up just because they supported the KPA candidate in the election, reports said.
In another incident, some workers of a political party led by armed ZRA cadres allegedly assaulted and robbed the chief agent of KPA candidate Thangbem Haokip and another person identified as Thangtung at Singhat AC, on March 3.
The incident occurred when Thangbem Haokip along with Muanching, wife of Chinlunthang Zou (KPA candidate in Singhat AC) and a female assistant went to Maokot to meet their workers.
The electoral violence witnessed this time in Manipur is unlike before and occurred across the state. Some electoral violent incidents in the hill districts are closely related with Kuki militant groups which are under SoO to help the candidates who have to work for the Kuki interest win the election. On the other hand NSCN (IM) which has been under ceasefire with GOI and undergoing peace talk since August 1, 1997 carries out violent actions to help the candidates who have to work for Naga cause accepted to them or some other candidates who will be helpful to them win the elections.
However, the electoral violence carried out in valley districts do not appear to be related with any political actions of the insurgent groups except to intimidate the rival candidates and their workers or supporters.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics