19 March 2019 07:45 AM

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RANJU DODUM | 8 MARCH, 2019

After the Storm, Demands Gain Ground for CM Khandu’s Resignation

EC yet to announce election dates, fears AFSPA may be misused further


ITANAGAR: A day after opposition political parties threatened to stage protests outside the Raj Bhavan if Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu was not removed from his post, Home Minister Kumar Waii today appealed that protests should not disrupt the calm.

Members of the Congress, Peoples’ Party of Arunachal, Janata Dal (Secular) and National Peoples’ Party met Governor B.D.Mishra to demand that Khandu be sacked from the chief minister’s post over the recent violent protests and riots in the capital Itanagar which claimed the lives of three men from fatal bullet injuries as a result of firing from security personnel.

The chief minister on Wednesday announced that a committee headed by a retired judge would investigate the incidents leading up to the protests, which were triggered by concerns that six non-Scheduled Tribe communities in Arunachal Pradesh could be granted permanent resident certificates or PRCs.

The violence lasted for at least three days, beginning on February 21 and quickly escalating. Besides the three deaths from police firing many were injured. Large-scale vandalism of government and private property also took place.

The families of two of the victims - Risso Tari and Biki Ruja - have demanded that the authorities hand over the person responsible for the shooting, to be tried according Nyishi tribal customary law. Along with the wife of the third victim - Tsering Wangdi - they have also refused the government’s ex-gratia payment and job offered to a relative of the dead in compensation.

Home Minister Waii said the committee would investigate the matter and those found guilty of wrongdoing would be punished as per the law. He said there are no provisions in government to hand over anyone to the victims' families although such customs were practised in the past.

Demands are gaining ground for CM Khandu's resignation. The opposition parties have threatened to sit in protest from tomorrow, March 9 if he does not resign.

It was a harried press conference called by Home Minister Waii in the evening after he had held a meeting with the director-general of police and the chief secretary.

Waii said that such dharnas outside the Raj Bhavan should not be held and that protests should not disrupt peace in the state, especially considering that the CBSE school examinations are currently underway.

He said he had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier and had thanked him for approving two Smart Cities in Arunachal Pradesh, adding that “we must make our cities beautiful and let us not break the peace”.

The home minister also said that elections will be announced soon giving the people an opportunity to choose good leaders.

Arunachal Pradesh’s legislative assembly elections are likely to be held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls later this year.Waii's appeal comes at a time when questions are being asked as to why the Election Commission of India has yet to announce the date of elections.

Although the violence in the state capital has subsided, fresh protests were reported in Changlang district in eastern Arunachal, allegedly over the transfer of the superintendent of police there. The state government recently ordered a reshuffle of various police officers, including M.Harsha Vardhan who was SP of Itanagar when the violence broke out.

The IPS officer has been accused of forcing a section of student leaders who had called the initial protest against the PRC issue to withdraw their protests, at gunpoint. He has denied the allegations.

Speaking to journalists, the home minister said that the government was not trying to shield the officer by transferring him.Harsha Vardhan has said it is the “government's prerogative” to transfer him.

Shielding or not, at least a section of residents of Changlang district are opposed to Harsha Vardhan’s transfer. A number of organisations from the district said that people are “furious and unhappy as the districts of Tirap, Changlang, and Longding are under the purview of the draconian law, AFSPA.”

The three districts in question serve as hideouts for a number of Naga armed groups and the thick forests are often used to make getaways into bordering Myanmar by several armed separatist organisations. They are also the only three districts in the state where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is enforced in entirety within their boundaries.
 

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