Internet services were suspended with markets, petrol pumps and shops remaining closed in Itanagar on Sunday. Most of the ATMs were also out of cash. On Sunday, protesters burnt the private residence of Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and also ransacked the deputy commissioner’s office in Itanagar, police said.
Public protests in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh quickly escalated on Sunday with the death of two people in alleged firing by the police in a bid to control angry mobs. The protests which have been on in the northeastern state over the proposal of permanent resident certificate (PRC) being issued to six communities did not stop despite assurances by the Arunachal government to defer the plan.
Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu on violence over Permanent Residence Certificate matter: I would like to assure the people in Arunachal Pradesh that govt will not take up the matter even in future. This is a clear message. https://t.co/nBvPmX7UKe
— ANI (@ANI) February 25, 2019
Police had to open fire when protesters attempted to march towards the private residence of Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu in Itanagar in the afternoon; the mob had started to pelt stones.
On Saturday, the authorities in the state had tried to put a stop on the protests with an indefinite curfew in state capital Itanagar as well as Naharlagun, after stone-pelting injured 35 people, including 24 policemen.
The Army too held flag marches in Itanagar and Naharlagun on Saturday and then on Sunday. On Sunday evening, the central government dispatched nearly 1,000 paramilitary personnel to maintain law and order, a report by PTI said.
On Sunday, protesters burnt the private residence of Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and also ransacked the deputy commissioner’s office in Itanagar, police said. The mob also set ablaze many vehicles parked in its compound, and also struck at the Itanagar Police Station and other public properties and vehicles. Police have also said that the mob damaged a shopping mall and robbed valuables and set fire to the a market complex in Naharlagun.
Film festival called off as violence escalates
The violence began on Sunday soon after the cremation of one person who died on Friday in police firing; the protesters had first refused to allow the last rites.
The reports on protests started coming on Thursday. In the last four days, besides targeting public officials, the protesters have also threatened media personnel from covering the protests, and also attacked offices of student organisations such as the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union.
Arunachal minister Bamang Felix said the two protesters who died were among those people who were trying to attack the CM residence. The mob had attempted to break the barricades despite warnings.
Protesters are wreaking havoc in Itanagar and the roads have been blocked and any vehicle seen moving is being attacked, an officer told The Indian Express.
Internet services were suspended with markets, petrol pumps and shops remaining closed in Itanagar on Sunday. Most of the ATMs were also out of cash, police said.
On Saturday, the protesters also damaged the stage of the Itanagar International Film Festival which led to organisers calling off the film festival.
The demands of the protesters include a permanent resolution to the PRC issue, resignation of Pema Khandu, unconditional release of the 40-odd detainees participating in the protest by the authorities besides the transfer of the chief secretary. Congress party’s Arunachal unit has sought the dismissal of the BJP government in the state and asked that President’s rule be imposed.
Arunachal Congress president Takam Sanjay said the violent protests indicate total failure of the government. “This is the worst condition of the state I have seen. How can the BJP blame the Congress? Who constituted the JHPC?”
Demand old, but issue escalates just before polls
It has been an old demand of six communities in Arunachal to get PRC in a bid to be recognised as residents of the northeastern state, but the long-pending demand is being heavily opposed by powerful sections in the state.
In 2018, the Arunachal Pradesh government had promised these communities PRC by January 2019. However, the ruling government set a condition that it be will wait for JHPC’s report which was expected to be tabled in the Assembly this week.
The communities which have been demanding PRCs include five non-Arunachal Pradesh STs — Sonowal Kacharis, Deoris, Adivasis, Morans and Mishings — along with the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar. Most of these have been recognised as STs in the neighbouring state of Assam.
The protests have left the authorities baffled as the BJP government’s statement refrained from taking any decision on it for the time being. Many are also alleging political backing within the state known for political instability and mass defections.
The timing is also under scrutiny as the Assembly polls are scheduled to be conducted along with the general elections this year in a couple of months. In 2014 Arunachal Assembly elections, the Congress party won 42 out of 60 seats. However, following a mysterious suicide a series of political defections and court cases, it was the BJP that formed the government with 48 legislators. The Congress now has only five MLAs in the state.
State says no grant of PRCs now
With tension escalating, Chief Secretary Satya Gopal said on Sunday that seeing the current situation with reference to issuing of PRCs to non-APST (Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes) of Namsai and Changlang districts, the Arunachal government has come to a decision that further action will not be taken on the grant of PRCs.
On Sunday, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju alleged that the Congress party was instigating the protesters. He said that the Arunachal Pradesh government has already issued a clarification that it was not bringing the Bill on PRC but only tabling a report by a Joint High Powered Committee (JHPC) formed for it.