Women’s group sets up gates to curb supply of liquor during Nagaland polls

The aim is to have a free, fair and inducement-free election, it says

February 20, 2023 03:08 am | Updated 03:08 am IST - Kohima

A boy prepares local liquor in Sekmai area in the outskirts of Imphal. File image for representation.

A boy prepares local liquor in Sekmai area in the outskirts of Imphal. File image for representation. | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Nagaland is a dry State but with the February 27 Assembly election campaign gaining momentum, a women's organisation in Phek district has set up check gates to restrict the flow of liquor offered as inducement to voters during the poll process.

Phek is occupied by Chakhesang and Pochury tribes having five Assembly constituencies with four seats in the Chakhesang area and also has some villages in the Meluri constituency of the Pochury tribe.

Concerned about the ill-effects of liquor and also liquor offered as inducement during the Assembly elections, the womenfolk of the Chakhesang Naga tribe under the Chakhesang Mothers' Association (CMA) have put up around 100 check points in their area, Zhonelü Tunyi, president of the CMA, the apex body of womenfolk for the Chakhesang community in Phek district, told PTI here.

"During elections the flow of liquor as inducement is very high while many people get into physical fights and clashes in support of candidates, becoming enemies and even leading to killing.

"Therefore, our main objective is to have a free, fair and inducement-free election with the expectation that once such flow of inducements is stopped, people will remain sober and avoid getting into conflicts," she said.

Also during elections, once people get drunk without being shameful they repeatedly ask money from candidates and political leaders, she said.

Responsibilities at home

Accepting that the flow of liquor continues even during other times, she said "we are also mothers and have our own responsibilities at home and personal work as well making it difficult for us to maintain the checks throughout the year, but during election period the flow of liquor increases manifold for inducing voters".

When asked about the CMA putting up check gates to restrict flow of liquor in the district, police said such moral policing was appreciated but the enforcers should not take the law into their hands and report issues directly to them.

The CMA feels that if people remain in proper sense, such skirmishes can be avoided and the electioneering process will be peaceful, she said.

"We are having sleepless nights because we want our society and future generations to be better," said Ms. Tunyi.

It is not only about the highways and main roads where the vehicles are being stopped for frisking but the womenfolk have set up bamboo check-gates in their own village entry points as well, she said.

"We are getting support from all the 80 villages while villages having borders with other districts and even neighbouring Manipur State has 3-4 checkpoints," Ms. Tunyi said.

Thousands of mothers are engaged in the process, she said.

Ms. Tunyi claimed that even the Pochury Mothers Association in the Meluri constituency, while appreciating the CMA for their initiatives, has expressed willingness to start such check gates.

Asked if every vehicle entering the Chakhesang region is checked, she said, "Yes, except the District Magistrate and Surveillance Team, all vehicles including that of candidates and political party leaders and workers as well as police vehicles not on election duty are being checked".

Accepting that such action should be from district administration and police, she, however, said the CMA had sought permission from the administration on the ground that they are doing so for the general welfare and for a peaceful and inducement-free elections.

She claimed that even the election office has been appreciative of the CMA initiatives because it concerns all.

Reported to police

Asked if they destroy the seized liquor on the spot, she said huge illegal consignments in terms of cases requiring case registration are reported to the police upholding the law while those carrying small quantity for self consumption are destroyed on the spot.

Having started in 2003, the flow of liquor during this election has been less then 2018 elections, she claimed.

"The quantity of liquor seized and destroyed was very high in 2018 elections to the extent of seizing up to 10 cases from one vehicle but this time it is much lesser," she said.

Ms. Tunyi claimed that their apex body Chakhesang Public Organisation and other frontal organisations including Chakhesang Students Union, Chakhesang Youth Front, Chakhesang Clean Election Movement, Chakhesang Women Welfare Society as well as the district administration, churches, law enforcing agencies have been very supportive towards the current alcohol-free drive of the CMA.

The Nagaland Liquor Total Prohibition Act has been in force since 1989.

During a recent press conference, Nagaland Director-General of Police Rupin Sharma had said such moral policing was appreciated but the enforcers should not take the law into their hands and report issues directly to the police.

State election officials said that till Friday, 71,334.824 litres of liquor, ₹4,06,44,495 in cash and drugs and narcotics worth ₹31,30,44,530 and freebies and other items worth ₹3,90,79,640 had been seized after the model of conduct came into force.

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