You Don’t Have To Be Donald Trump
(January 14) You don’t have to be Donald Trump to cry “Fake!” when you lose an election.
Shavei Israel’s new Manipur Administrator Sehjalal (Shlomo) Kipgen did the same this week when he sought to convene a rump session of the state’s B’nei Menashe congregations in Churachandpur on January 10 in order to overturn the elections held for the B’nei Menashe Council last November 5.
Sehjalal’s maneuver was the most recent in a series of Shavei moves designed first to thwart and then to reverse the November vote. At the start, Shavei opposed the holding of BMC elections and threatened to retaliate against anyone taking part in them. When this failed, it ran its own candidate, who was none other than Sehjalal Kipgen, for BMC Chairman, saw him go down to defeat, and tried to form a breakaway organization. When that, too, led nowhere, Shavei switched to its latest stratagem, namely, to call for new elections on the grounds that those conducted in November were invalid.
The current Shavei stratagem was launched on January 5, when former BMC General Secretary Seimang (Yitzhak) Haokip, who did not run for re-election in November, sent out a letter on BMC stationary that fraudulently represented him as still the holder of his office. Declaring that the November balloting was not “free and fair,” and was “thrown into chaos and confusion by people with bad intentions,” the letter called for a revote.
What “bad intentions” those who pushed for the November election had had apart from the wish to restore to the BMC the independent voice Shavei had deprived it of, Seimang did not say. Nor did he explain what was “chaotic and confusing” about a vote that took place calmly after an open debate in which all 24 of Manipur’s B’nei Menashe congregations participated and whose democratic nature not even the losers challenged at the time.
On January 8, the BMC’s currently elected General Secretary, Ohaliav Haokip, filed a First Information Report or complaint to the Churachandpur police, accusing Seimang of having “impersonated and misused” the BMC’s letterhead with the help of Sehjalal Kipgen. Meanwhile, the rump session convened by Seimang met at Beit Shalom synagogue in Churachandpur on the 10th. The results were disappointing for the organizers. Delegates from only 7 of the 24 congregations bothered to show up, among them none from the larger ones, including Beit Shalom itself. No one came from Imphal, Kangpokpi, or Moreh. Of the 15 congregations in the Churachandpur area, only Monglienphai, Zohar, Boljol, Sijang, and Patlen were represented.
Despite the poor turnout, the rump faction announced its intent of staging a new election on January 25. “Although there is clearly no popular desire for it,” Ohaliav Haokip told our Newsletter, “Sehjalal and his associates are campaigning aggressively by all available means. There have made both promises and threats. Rumors are circulating of people being told that the new election’s supporters will be given priority on the Aliyah lists that Shavei draws up.”
The Churachandpur police, Ohaliav says, have been slow to act on the case. Consequently, the elected BMC has engaged a lawyer to request a stay order from Churachandpur’s District Magistrate’s Court. Such an order would forbid the rump faction from holding an illegal BMC election and would enjoin Seimang, Sehjalal, and others from using BMC stationary or posing as BMC officials. Once the necessary papers are filed, the court’s decision will be awaited.