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A week before assembly polls, political violence on rise in Meghalaya & Nagaland

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NCP candidate Jonathan N. Sangma killed in an IED blast in Meghalaya’s East Garo Hills; two candidates in Nagaland allege attempts on their lives.

Dimapur: Poll-related violence has rocked Meghalaya and Nagaland in the past few days.

Tension gripped Meghalaya after Jonathan N. Sangma, a Nationalist Congress Party candidate, was killed in an IED blast in East Garo Hills Sunday evening.

Prior to this, two candidates in Nagaland alleged attempts on their lives last week. Both Meghalaya and Nagaland go to polls on 27 February.

In Meghalaya, the 43-year-old NCP candidate was returning after campaigning and was on his way to Williamnagar, his assembly constituency, when the convoy came under attack, police said. Three others who were travelling with him also died on the spot.

Poll-related clashes, attacks and threats to contesting candidates by miscreants or militant groups are common during elections in the northeast, a region infested with insurgency.

A press statement released by the deputy commissioner of the East Garo Hills district said Jonathan Sangma had apparently received several threats in the days before the attack.

In the 2013 assembly elections, Jonathan had filed an FIR against Congress candidate Deborah Marak for allegedly using GNLA militants to intimidate voters. Marak had won the seat. A case was filed against him under sections 102(B), 171(F) and 506 of the IPC in the local court and he was released on bail.

Saleng Sangma, the Meghalaya NCP president, said it seemed to be a planned attack.

“There are rumours that two men invited the deceased to attend public gatherings in nearby villages. It wasn’t a part of his campaigning plan but he went as a courtesy call. But when they reached, there was no such programme held in these villages,” Saleng told ThePrint.

Days before the incident, posters threatening people against voting for Sangma were seen in and around Williamnagar. On 16 February, a police complaint was also filed against posters that came up at Damagre, Chisobibra, Chimagre, Samanda and Dolwarigre.

No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack but National People’s Party chief Conrad Sangma, tweeted last night, “My heart goes out to the family of Jonathane Sangma, my dear friend who his life in a militant attack. May his soul rest in peace. Sad very unfortunate”.

Police suspect the role of a faction of the banned Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA).

Meanwhile, NPP candidate T Chalukumba Ao from Koridang constituency was allegedly attacked in Mokokchung town in Nagaland Friday evening. He said unknown assailants attempted to enter a shop where he was present at that time. When his bodyguard stopped them, they allegedly fired random shots in the air.

Mmhonlumo Kikon, a BJP candidate contesting from 40 Bhandari seat in Wokha district, alleged an attempt on his life on his way back from campaigning. The party termed the attack ‘politically motivated’ and believed to be carried at the behest of their rivals.

Reacting to the rise poll-related violence, Reverend Keyho, general secretary of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), said that the attacks were very unfortunate and uncalled for.

“We strongly condemn such acts. The sanctity of life is more important than election rhetoric,” he told ThePrint.

NBCC, an influential church body, has issued directives to all sections of people in Nagaland from refraining from such violence, Keyho added.

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