New polls were ordered in almost a dozen locations in Manipur, where several voting stations were vandalized last week Election Commission of India has ordered fresh polling in 11 locations in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on April 22, 2024 after a series of violent incidents disrupted the voting process on April 19. © RT

An election re-run has taken place in 11 locations in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur after a series of violent incidents disrupted the polling process last Friday. Ethnic clashes in the remote state have left more than 200 dead and tens of thousands displaced since May 2023.

Manipur was among 21 states and union territories in which polling was held on April 19, marking the first of seven phases of the general election. However, gunfire, violence, and vandalism were reported at 11 polling stations, with images of broken equipment, including electronic voting machines (EVMs), circulating on social media.

At least four EVMs were damaged in the conflict-hit state on Friday, news agency PTI reported. In the Imphal East district, a 65-year-old man was shot at by unidentified men, while armed men also fired blank shots and intimidated polling agents of the opposition Congress party, according to media reports. Congress leaders from Manipur also claimed that “booth capturing” by armed men had occurred in at least eight voting stations. This is a common phenomenon in Indian elections, by which party loyalists or hired criminals “capture” a polling booth and vote in place of legitimate electors.

The Election Commission of India declared the polling void and ordered votes to be cast again. On Monday, voting took place with tightened security measures to ensure the safety of voters as well as that of polling personnel, India Today reported.

Manipur has been engulfed by violence since May 2023 due to a dispute stemming from animosity between the region’s Meitei majority, living in the state’s valley region, and the Kuki tribes, who live in the surrounding hills. At least 200 people have been reported killed in clashes that continued for several months until the central government intervened and sent additional security personnel to the state.

However, sporadic outbreaks of violence have continued in some areas. This year, the Indian election body made provisions in Manipur to ensure that displaced people – many of whom are still living in relief camps – can cast their votes at special polling stations at these locations.

According to a report in Outlook, around 94 such stations were set up for more than 24,000 displaced people whom the Election Commission identified as eligible voters. Meanwhile, several Kuki community leaders have issued calls for the polls to be boycotted. The community has been pressing for a separate administration within the state since violence broke out.

The first phase of voting for 102 parliamentary constituencies across 21 states and union territories saw a turnout of nearly 64%, according to the Election Commission. In Manipur, over 75% of eligible voters cast their ballots. The results will be announced on June 4.

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