Violence breaks out in Manipur on election day, armed men lay siege to polling booths

Videos show men wearing masks and holding guns shoving voters and upending the voting machine in one of the booths.
Screengrab from two videos
Screengrab from two videosX
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Amid the continuing conflict between Meitei and Kuki-Zo groups, violence was reported in Manipur on Friday, April 19 in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections. Gunshots were heard at a polling booth at Inner Manipur’s Thamanpokpi under Moirang Assembly segment. According to reports, at least three people have been injured.

In a video that has been shared widely on social media, three rounds of firing could be heard in quick succession. This is followed by a series of gunshots amid commotion and voters running for cover. According to the Election Commission, 68.62% votes have been polled in Manipur as of 5 pm.

Meanwhile, a militant group in the state has allegedly laid siege to a polling station in Khongman in Imphal East, and proceeded to cast votes on behalf of multiple voters. Sources from Manipur said that the violence had happened in the polling booths of Thongju, Thamnapokpi, Keirao, Iroisemba, Khurai, Thinungei and Uripok. Videos show men wearing masks and holding guns shoving voters and upending the voting machine in one of the booths.

Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, a Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and the Congress candidate from Inner Manipur, has alleged that his polling agents were threatened and forcefully removed from Kyamgei Heibong Makhong High School polling booth in Imphal East.

In a video circulating on social media, Bimol Akoijam was heard questioning a police officer about their inaction during the ruckus. He said, “There was a commotion here. The polling officer had already complained, so why do none of the police officers have any idea about this? What were you doing when my polling agents were threatened? So many people were firing guns here.”

Kshetrimayum Santa, CPI(M) Manipur state secretary and INDIA Block convenor in Imphal, told TNM that many polling booths in the rural regions of Imphal were attacked. He stated, “Ruckus was created, there was firing, and they destroyed the voting machines and other items in the polling booths.”

A Congress worker from Imphal, who requested anonymity, told TNM, “The armed men of Aramai Tenggol, dressed in their uniforms, vandalised many booths. They destroyed voting machines, assaulted people, and attacked Congress workers. There were random shootings, and some people were injured. Congress booth agents were threatened and forced to leave. They did not allow many people to vote,” he alleged.

After casting his vote, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said, “I hope BJP’s Inner Manipur candidate Th Basanta Singh and Outer Manipur candidate K Timothy Zimik of NPF will win, and give support to form the Union government led by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).”

Ahead of the elections, Meitei militant group Arambai Tenggol had released a press release prohibiting public gatherings, feasts, the use of loudspeakers, flag raising and spreading election messages through loudspeakers during the campaign.

Manipur has been embroiled in an ethnic conflict between two communities–Meitei people who live in the valley and Kuki-Zo people who live in the hills–since May 3, 2023. Over 220 people have been killed in the violence since then and thousands have been internally displaced. Internet services were banned immediately after the ethnic violence broke out in the state on May 3 and were periodically extended considering the prevailing law and order situation. Even though Biren Singh promised to lift these restrictions in September, 2023, it is unclear whether the ban has been lifted in all areas.

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