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Voters abstain from polls in India's Christian-majority state

People in six districts of the northeastern Nagaland state did not exercise their franchise on April 19
Tribal women dance at their community gathering in Nagaland on April 8, 2023. Tribal Christians form 87 percent of Nagaland's population

Tribal women dance at their community gathering in Nagaland on April 8, 2023. Tribal Christians form 87 percent of Nagaland's population (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 22, 2024 11:49 AM GMT
Updated: April 23, 2024 05:25 AM GMT

People in six districts of the Christian-majority Nagaland state in India’s northeast refused to vote in the ongoing national election to stress their demand for a separate state.

The Eastern Nagaland People's Organisation (ENPO), comprising seven tribal bodies in Nagaland, had urged people in six districts not to vote in the polls on April 19.

“The demand by the ENPO is genuine,” said Paul Magh of the North Eastern Regional Youth Commission.

The ENPO influences Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Noklak, Shamator and Tuensang districts, which have nearly half a million voters.

Magh told UCA News on April 22 that the voters believed that the demand for a separate state was justified as the government did not do justice to them in terms of development.

He said ENPO had held talks with the government to chalk out a unique arrangement called ‘Frontier Naga Territory’ within the state with a separate legislature and financial powers. 

“They believe if they were given a separate state, their life would be better,” said Magh, a Catholic lay leader.

Ahead of the polls, the ENPO declared a "public emergency" in six districts and prohibited candidates from campaigning.

Chumben Murry of the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party and Supongmeren Jamir of the Congress party were the candidates in Nagaland's lone parliamentary constituency.

However, overall voter turnout in the state, comprising 16 districts, stood at 56 percent compared with 83.08 percent in the 2019 polls.

Starting April 19, India’s general elections will be conducted in seven phases. The results will be declared on June 4.

The demand for autonomy for six districts figured prominently at last year’s assembly polls in February.

In August 2022, the ENPO asked voters to abstain from poll participation. However, weeks before the polls, the ENPO withdrew the boycott call.

Christians account for 87 percent of Nagaland’s 2.2 million people.

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