NGOs for clause exemption
Shillong, April 27: Meghalaya's agitating social organisations today exhorted the state's political leaders to ask the Election Commission to "exempt clauses" as far as enrolment of voters is concerned in view of the presence of a minority indigenous population. "It is a matter of political will. If our politicians are really concerned about the state, they should approach the Election Commission and seek exemption from the guidelines as far as registration of voters is concerned. If Assam can be exempted from implementing the compulsory Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC), similar exemption can also be extended to Meghalaya," HNYF general secretary Sadon K. Blah told reporters here.
He pointed out that Meghalaya was already a state protected under the Sixth Schedule and there were many directives from the Centre that the state government had never implemented.
Reiterating their demands, the organisations, which include the Khasi Students Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi-Jaintia & Garo People (FKJGP) and the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), decided to go ahead with the three-day night road blockade (7pm till 5am) from Monday. Their demands include immediate suspension of the ongoing registration of voters, closure of the "special counters" for voter registration in the deputy commissioners' offices and reverting to the old system where a hearing took place at the village level (Dorbar Shnong) before a prospective elector's enrolment to ascertain his/her antecedents. The organisations have also demanded recognition of residential certificates issued by village headmen.
The major contention of the organisations is that non-Indians and migrants have found a place in the electoral rolls, which could pose a danger to the indigenous people.
Hence they also want the Centre to scrap the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty, 1950 to stop the entry of non-Indian Nepalis. "It is very difficult to differentiate between an Indian and a non-Indian Nepali. If the treaty cannot be scrapped, Meghalaya should at least be exempted from it as the migration of Nepalis to our state is alarming," KSU president Daniel Khyriem said.
Last night, the government decided to replace the "special counters" in deputy commissioners' offices with voter facilitation cells.
Blah, however, questioned the idea behind the setting up of such cells. "These cells are meant to facilitate whom? These would only help outsiders attain an EPIC, as they would not have to go to the Dorbar Shnong for verification. How do you expect a deputy commissioner to know the antecedents of an individual who has come from outside?" he asked.
Yesterday afternoon, the state government had held parleys with the agitating groups but the talks remained inconclusive, as it could not offer any definite solution to their demands.