Constituency watch: Manipur

Armed rebels have started abducting workers of political parties, including a former Minister ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, in Manipur.

The BJP is the first victim of such abductions in the north-eastern States. Concerned party leaders and candidates have been sending frantic messages to their national leaders.

On Wednesday night, an active member of the BJP identified as Anam Zimik, who is the former president of the Ukhrul district BJP, was abducted by suspected armed rebels. His whereabouts are not known.

On Tuesday night, former Minister Khasim Ruivah and his son were abducted by suspected cadres of this rebel outfit. They were returning home after attending the election campaign of Gangumei Kamei, the BJP candidate for the reserved Outer Manipur constituency which goes to polls on Wednesday. They were whisked away to undisclosed places.

In protest against the abduction, people staged a sit-in in front of the BJP office in Ukhrul, demanding unconditional release of the father and son. Ruivah and the son were released late Wednesday night. They are not talking to press or police. However, police believe that they had been warned not to support the BJP candidate.

Gangumei Kamei and Manipur unit BJP president Chaoba Thounaojam had written strong letters to national leaders to secure the release of the abducted father and son duo. They are believed to have pointed out that the rebel outfit had signed ceasefire pact with the Union government and as such the Union government should ask it to set them free.

Mr. Ruivah had been in other political parties in the past. He became the Education Minister after winning the elections on the Federal Party of Manipur ticket. He and Mr. Kamei are long time political associates. They are together again as members of the BJP.

From the way another member of the BJP has been abducted, it is clear that some others may also be targeted in the coming days.

Some rebel groups had opposed the elections. However, this is for the first time that prominent politicians supporting the candidates have been abducted. Because of abductions and fear of attacks on candidates, electioneering is low key in the interior hill areas. Most of the candidates are staying in their second homes in and around Imphal. They have been conducting electioneering through their trusted followers and associates. But, then from these abductions it is clear that they are also not safe.

The Election Commission of India is in touch with the Manipur government. The Manipur government is likely to demand more paramilitary forces.