Guns and violence in elections
IFP Editorial: In the wake of the recent incident of election related violence leading to the death of one student and seriously injuring three others in Heirok, one cannot be certain of how this particular incident is going to unfold or take shape in Heirok constituency and elsewhere.
Updated on 24 Dec 2021, 3:53 am
Protest rally against Heirok killing (Photo: IFP)
Violence related to election campaign have never been like this serious. Heirok is unlike any other village and it is specially known for its fierce loyalty and defiance to any authority besides their complete distaste for anyone who tries to enforce its will or dictates on them. The very idea of raising the infamous Village Defence Force (VDF) was originally conceived after the May 2008 incident inHeirok under Thoubal District in which villagers stood up against the atrocities of a particular militant group, leading to the appointment of Special Police Officers (SPOs) to guard the village.
In 2008 March 24, some militants had indiscriminately opened fire at aThabalchongba occasion at Heirok, in which some villagers were fatally injured while a girl lost her eyesight. The whole village rose up in unison and prohibited any member of armed militant groups from entering the village. Villagers particularly the youth asked the government to provide arms to protect themselves from the insurgents. In response, the State Government recruited youths of the Heirok villagers as Special Police Officers (SPO). They were given arms and also paid Rs 3000 as allowance for their services.
In the wake of the recent incident of election related violence leading to the death of one student and seriously injuring three others in Heirok, one cannot be certain of how this particular incident is going to unfold or take shape in Heirok constituency and elsewhere. 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 or implode.
When pre-poll violence begun quite early in Andro constituency, we had predicted that it does not bode well for the 2022 general elections. At least six persons were injured in a clash that broke out between two groups belonging to rival candidates of Andro assembly constituency in October. Bullets from single or double barrel guns, licensed or unlicensed, were flying around and injuring even bystanders. The DC, Imphal East had since then passed prohibitory orders under Sec 144 of CrPC in the area. It was not only in Andro constituency but pre-poll violence is happening right in the heart of Imphal city and the suburbs.
There was the incident of stone-pelting between supporters of rival candidates in Singjamei constituency. Similar incidents are also reported along with complaints of police being partisan or acting on the whims of ruling party or government ministers being aired in every available medium of communication. In those days also, reports of violence and arson were coming in from Heirok constituency every day leading to the district administration imposing CrPC 144 restrictions in the constituency. In this volatile constituency, not even the journalists are spared. As we said then, the evolving scenario could turn into a security nightmare if adequate precautions are not taken up in time.
The district administrations have already called for depositing of licensed guns in view of the elections. Yet, only about a quarter of the licensed guns were deposited in the police stations till date while many are running around for exemptions. Perhaps, it is time for the police to move and collect the guns instead of waiting for gun owners to deposit it. And no exemptions, except for those under serious threat, should be made in the collection. One can expect all kinds of violence including voter intimidation and booth-rigging on the poll date or in the preceding days. It is the duty and responsibility of the state to ensure a secure environment for a free and fair poll, and for the Election Commission of India to conduct the poll fairly with the minimum of violence.