Shillong, Oct 12 (IANS) Voting ended peacefully on Monday in the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council (GHADC) elections in the western part of Meghalaya as people defied a boycott called by various pressure groups and a militant outfit to exercise their franchise.
The government had blocked access to internet services from Sunday night to prevent pressure groups from circulating messages to incite voters not to take part in the election besides creating communal tension in the Garo Hills.
“An estimated of 50 percent of the 590,456 voters voted till 4 p.m. in five districts of Garo Hills,” Commissioner and Secretary for District Council Affairs Jopthiaw Lyngdoh told IANS.
“Polling has been conducted in a free, fair and peaceful manner with no report of major incidents,” Lyngdoh said.
West Garo Hills district police chief Mukesh Kumar Singh told IANS that there were two reports of miscreants torching a motorcycle and another vehicle at Wadanangjanga and Chitotak areas during the polling.
Five groups comprising Garo Students Union, Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People, Aachik Youth Welfare Organisation, Association for Democracy and Empowerment and Federation for Achik Freedom boycotted the GHADC elections.
They were protesting against the participation of non-indigenous tribals in the elections, saying the creation of the district council in Meghalaya was aimed at protecting the interests of the indigenous people.
Under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, Meghalaya has three district councils – the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills.
“We are against the participation of non-indigenous contesting and casting votes in the GHADC election as it goes against the very spirit of the Sixth Schedule. The very purpose of the Sixth Schedule is to protect the indigenous people,” GSU president Tengsak G. Momin told IANS.
A total of 162 candidates, including six women and 79 independents, were in the fray on Monday. The votes will be counted on October 15.
The ruling Congress party has fielded candidates in all constituencies followed by the National People’s Party which is contesting 26 seats.
The United Democratic Party has 14 candidates while the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is attempting to make inroads into the GHADC, put up six candidates. Four candidates each belong to the Nationalist Congress Party and the Garo National Council.
Only the Congress and its rival the Purno Sangma-led NPP fielded non-tribal indigenous candidates in the elections.