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Zero Voter Turnout In 6 Nagaland Districts Amid Shutdown Call

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KOHIMA, Apr 19 (PTI) Polling personnel in six eastern districts of Nagaland waited for nine hours in booths, but not one of the four lakh voters of the region turned up following a shutdown call given by an organisation to press for its demand for ‘Frontier Nagaland Territory’ (FNT).

Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on Friday affirmed that the state government does not have any problem with the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation’s (ENPO) demand for FNT as it has already recommended autonomous powers for the region.

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The ENPO is the apex body of the seven tribal organisations of the eastern region.

Officials said there is no movement of people or vehicles on major streets in eastern Nagaland except those of the district administrations and other emergency services.

Additional Chief Electoral Officer of Nagaland Awa Loring said polling personnel were present between 7 am and 4 pm in the 738 polling stations in the region which comprises 20 assembly constituencies.

Sources in the CEO’s office said none came up to cast votes in those nine hours. Those 20 MLAs also did not exercise their franchise.

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Of the 13.25 lakh voters in Nagaland, the six districts in Eastern Nagaland have 4,00,632 voters.

Speaking to reporters after casting his vote at his village in Touphema, some 41 km on the outskirts of the state capital, the chief minister said he accepted the draft working paper for FNT which was handed over to him in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah.

“Everything looks okay except the power-sharing the elected legislators of the region and members of the proposed FNT,” he said.

The ENPO has been demanding a separate state comprising six districts alleging that successive governments did not bring about socio-economic development in the region.

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The chief minister, however, said the state government has already recommended an autonomous body so that the region gets sufficient economic packages to come at par with the rest of the state.

“When an autonomous body is created, there has to be a proper system with the elected members. The state government has nothing to do with this. The MLAs and ENPO should sit across the table to work out a formula. We can talk only after that,” Rio said.

Asked if any action would be initiated against the 20 legislators of eastern Nagaland for not casting votes, he said, “We don’t want confrontation. Let us see what will happen.”

Hours before the Lok Sabha elections are due to begin in Nagaland, the ENPO imposed an indefinite total shutdown in the eastern part of the state from 6 pm on Thursday.

The organisation also cautioned that if any person goes to vote and any law and order situation arises, it will be the responsibility of the voter concerned.

Nagaland CEO Vayasan R, while viewing the shutdown as an attempt to exert undue influence during elections, issued a show cause notice to the ENPO on Thursday night.

He said under sub-section (1) of Section 171C of the Indian Penal Code, “Whoever voluntarily interferes or attempts to interfere with the free exercise of any electoral right commits the offence of undue influence at an election.”

ENPO president Tsapikiu Sangtam on Friday, however, claimed that section is not applicable in this context.

“The main goal of the public notice (for shutdown) was to reduce the possibility of disturbances in the Eastern Nagaland region, which is under our jurisdiction, and the risk linked with gatherings of anti-social elements,” he said.

Stating that eastern Nagaland is presently under a “public emergency”, he claimed that the shutdown was a voluntary initiative taken by the people of the region.

Sangtam said that the ENPO informed the EC on April 1 about the intentions of the Eastern Nagaland people to abstain from participating in the Lok Sabha elections.

The ENPO does not possess any mechanism to enforce its resolutions or orders but it operates solely on the basis of voluntary participation and consensus among the Eastern Nagaland people, he said. (PTI)

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