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Southernmost polling booth of India witnesses zero voters

Hans India 2019-04-15 16:18:59

Situated at Shompen Hut in the Great Nicobar Island of the Andaman and Nicobar Lok Sabha constituency, the southernmost polling booth of India didn't witness a single vote cast by the last remaining stone-age community existing in impenetrable forest.

On April 11, the 31 inhabited islands of the constituency went to the polls. The booth is around 20 km from Indira Point, the southernmost point of the Indian subcontinent. Two members of the aboriginal Shompen tribe had cast their votes in 2014, which was the first time people of the indigenous tribe of Great Nicobar Island are recorded as having voted.

'Knots tied on cloth as signal but the tribals didn't come to vote'

In Greater Nicobar Island not a single vote was cast in the southernmost polling booth of the country.

"We have two booths with 66 and 22 voters each in Shompen Hut. Our polling party was present in the difficult terrain to facilitate voting. Nevertheless, no votes was cast this year," chief electoral officer (CEO) of Andaman and Nicobar, KR Meena.

He said that on a weekly or fortnightly basis, the tribals come out from their residences deep inside the forest to take ration from Shompen Hut. "Locals had used knots tied on a cloth to signal tribals the number of days left to elections as a countdown to polls. They used sign language as well as local dialect to communicate that the area goes to the polls on April 11. But none turned up. Perhaps, the communication by locals was not done effectively, or they just did not want to come," Meena added.

Meena informed about the Supreme Court's instructions that no individual other than the member of the aboriginal tribes is permitted to go into the tribal reserve and the 5-km buffer area around it and the boundaries in place by the tribal affairs ministry, when questioned as to why polling parties did not go deep in the jungle to call upon voters. "It is only when the tribals approach us that we can interact with them and not vice-versa. We were ready to facilitate, since they are on the electoral rolls, but we cannot force them."