Almost 0% Voting In 6 Nagaland Districts Over Separate Territory Demand

The ENPO also gave a poll boycott call before last year's Assembly election, but this was withdrawn after an assurance from Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

New Delhi:

Almost zero voting was recorded across six districts in Nagaland by Friday afternoon, after the Eastern Nagaland People's Organisation - which is demanding a separate administration with more financial autonomy - declared a 'public emergency' and called on locals to boycott this election.

The north-eastern state's Chief Election Officer has issued a notice to the ENPO for disrupting the electoral process. In a statement, the top poll official said the group had attempted "to use undue influence... by interfering with the free exercise of those residing in Eastern Nagaland areas to vote in the general election". The ENPO, the officer said, is therefore "directed to show cause... as to why action under subsection of Section 171C of the Indian Penal Code should not be initiated".

The relevant subsection says "whoever voluntarily interferes, or attempts to interfere, with the free exercise of any electoral right commits the offence of undue influence at the election".

READ | Nagaland Group Decides To Boycott Lok Sabha Polls

The ENPO has responded saying the "main goal" of the public notification 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". The organisation underlined the fact "the Eastern Nagaland region is presently under Public Emergency", and that this was declared after consultations with stakeholders.

This was a "voluntary initiative" by the people, the ENPO said, arguing that action under Section 171C "is not applicable... as no offence related to undue influence at any election is committed..."

"Given that the shutdown was a voluntary initiative by the people, there was no question of coercion or enforcement by the ENPO or any other authority," the statement said, also adding that it is willing to cooperate with the Election Commission "if there has been any misunderstanding or misinterpretation".

On March 30 the ENPO held a lengthy closed-door meeting with 20 MLAs and other organisations, at which they reiterated the decision to totally abstain from the Lok Sabha election. The Eastern Nagaland Legislators' Union - consisting of the 20 MLAs - had asked the ENPO to reconsider its decision.

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The following day the ENPO told the Election Commission of India about their move to not cast votes in the election. It said the decision was not taken lightly and "reflects the sentiments and aspirations of the people of Eastern Nagaland, who have tirelessly advocated for our rights and aspirations within the framework of democratic governance". The decision is not, it said, an act of defiance versus democracy.

READ | Won't Participate In Polls, Promise Unfulfilled: Eastern Nagaland Group

he 'public emergency' was declared on March 8. During this time the ENPO - the apex body of seven Naga tribes of the region - and its frontal organisations did not permit poll campaigns.

The ENPO also gave an abstention call before last year's Assembly election, but this was withdrawn after an assurance from Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Nagaland has one Lok Sabha seat, which has been held by the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party's Tokheho Yepthomi since a 2018 bypoll. The NDPP is an ally of the BJP.

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