GUWAHATI: The Army staged a flag march while the authorities clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC and suspended internet services in violence-hit Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar on Saturday.
The protestors had run amok, torching and damaging vehicles, vandalizing government property and clashing with the police and paramilitary forces on Friday. The car of former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki was among vehicles damaged.
The violence broke out on the second day of a 48-hour bandh called by 18 organisations protesting against the state government’s move to grant permanent resident certificate (PRC) to six non-tribal communities and it continued till 4 am of Saturday.
One person was killed in police firing while another was grievously injured. The police opened fire when the protestors made an attempt to storm the Secretariat building. Around 20 protestors were arrested by the police.
As it was free-for-all, most lawmakers spent Friday night in the state Assembly for the fear of being targeted. They had gone there earlier in the day to attend the Assembly session. The protestors had also surrounded the Assembly building and threatened to burn it down.
Popular Nagaland-based singer and songwriter, Alobo Naga, was among those who bore the brunt of the mobs’ fury. Alobo and a number of artistes from the Northeast and elsewhere in the country were in Itanagar to attend the first Itanagar International Film Festival (IIFF) at the Indira Gandhi Park.
Winner of the Best Indian Act at MTV Europe Music Awards in 2012, Alobo said the trouble started brewing when he had arrived in Itanagar on Friday.
“I had checked in a hotel by the roadside but I parked my music van, worth Rs.25 lakh, at the site of the festival thinking that it would be a safer place. However, when I went there this (Saturday) morning, I found my van torched along with my guitar, keyboard and other musical instruments,” Alobo told this correspondent.
“We all in the four-member Alobo Naga and The Band and the driver of the van were going back but got stranded. The protestors are all over,” he added.
The site of the film festival suffered maximum damage as the mobs destroyed almost everything there. They burnt down the convention halls, temporary theatres, stages, food courts, audio and video equipment and five inflatable screens. Around 20 vehicles were also torched at the Dorjee Khandu Convention Centre. The festival was scheduled to conclude till February 25.
National Film Award-winning film critic and filmmaker, Utpal Borpujari, who was among the sufferers, said a group of around 30 artistes was being escorted to Assam by the police.
“The Army carried out the flag march to instill a sense of security in the minds of the people,” official sources said.
In an order issued on Friday night, the state government directed telecom service providers to suspend internet services for the next 24 hours. “This is in view of the law and order situation and to avoid rumour-mongering,” the state’s Home Commissioner G S Meena said in the order.
The authorities have thrown up a security blanket at the residence of Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein as the protestors threatened to bury the body of the victim of police firing there. Mein was among a section of politicians who favoured granting of PRC to the six non-tribal communities such as Adivasi, Deori, Gorkha, Moran, Mishing and Sonowal Kachari who live in the state’s Changlang and Namsai districts.
Stung by the mob frenzy, the state government decided against tabling a report of a joint high power committee (JHPC), constituted to look into the issue, in the Assembly on Saturday.
The state’s Environment and Forest Minister Nabam Rebia, who headed the JHPC, said, “The government will never take any step that hurts the interests of indigenous communities”.