(This experience of the polling day in Nagaland Election 2023 was shared by one of the Observers of 2 Dimapur II AC)
With betel nuts in their mouth and their lips stained red, they gave a war cry call, “We have resolved to conduct a free and fair election”.
I arrived at the assigned polling station on the eve of voting day, in a room full of polling officers, security, and council members.
“We will not allow people from other colonies to vote in our jurisdiction,” the Chairmen stated.
After saying that, he politely asked the polling officers if they could show leniency towards ‘voting for their own families’.
An officer exclaimed “One man, one vote only!” To which, some members stated that voting for the entire family has always been a tradition in their colony. The Chairman concluded by saying that they are simply asking and will continue to support the official’s decision. We disbursed after they assured us of their full support.
But the next day, as we had multiple booths in the same location, GBs became the door security of every polling booth.
With careful consideration for the elderly, sickly, and for those out of station (as long as they have an original ID proof of the person or, at the very least, the name validates both in relation) we continued with the same call: “Only one person, one vote” in our booth.
The voting process went smoothly until 11:00 a.m. The scenario then completely changed. We could hear some nagging voices and patriotic lines like “we should have control of our own land,” and so on.
Because we were rejecting so many voters the atmosphere outside our polling station was gradually heating up. The ones who were rejected would however, still line up with a new voter’s slip.
Then the GBs proudly took turns to enter the polling stations illegally and intimated the officers stating, “It has always been one member who votes for the entire family” and demanded that we respect that.
Soon, they gathered the youths and the ‘steel-faced aunties’ and provoked them to vote again.
Multiple copies of voter’s slips were brought in at the same time, and we collected nearly three times as many as the originals.
The situation turned so bizarre to the extent that a local brought in the ‘voter registration card’ of a non-local lady while another gentleman brought in our booth’s ‘polling agent’s voting slip’.
The idea of ‘free and fair election’ just disappeared into thin air.
Thus, in my experience as a first time official, I observed that the GBs, as respectable and competent as they should have been, failed to lead with wisdom, to safeguard and promote truth and justice in their colony. Instead, they preyed on their own youth, exploiting them of their strength and vulnerability.
I respect the seat they hold and honor the elders, I look up with pride to the distinguished individuals marked with ‘Red labels’, because it signifies a boulder of trust, men of courage, an authority that stands and judges by truth. But their action on that day juxtaposed the integrity of the position.
But the sad reality is that, now that they’ve gained some ground, it is time for the ‘Reds’ to tell the stories of their might, take the pulpit, advocate for peace and prosperity in their colony, issue orders prohibiting the sale of intoxicants, and advise the youths to get educated, be truthful, bring forth success, and make the colony proud.
Kudos to those who remained firm; may you continue to be a stronghold for truth and torchbearers for the lost.