ITANAGAR: Police personnel had to resort to firing, tear gas shells and use water cannons to disperse the protesters as day two of the 48-hour Itanagar shutdown, called by a conglomerate of 18 student and civil organizations, witnessed instances of vehicles being burnt, road being blocked and the agitators resort to stone pelting at several places of the capital.
According to latest report, one of the protesters has sustained bullet injury in leg due to police firing. Meanwhile, several police personnel also sustained injuries due to pelting of stones by protesters.
The organizations which comprise of Arunachal Law Students’ Union, All Papum Pare District Students’ Union, United Arunachal Indigenous People’s Forum, All Tagin Students’ Union, Arunachal Anti-Corruption Union etc have been demanding the State government to scrap the decision of granting permanent resident certificates (PRC) to the non- Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe (APST) communities of Namsai and Changlang districts.
The groups have been alleging that the joint high power committee (JHPC) led by and environment and forest minister Nabam Rebia which has been constituted to look into the matter had submitted its report without proper verification of facts and the same should be rectified before it is tabled before the assembly.
The bandh, which was more or less peaceful during the morning hours, got intense by the afternoon as hundreds of agitators (mostly women) marched towards the State Legislative Assembly building shouting slogans against the government, particularly chief minister Pema Khandu and deputy chief minister Chowna Mein.
One being stopped midway by the police and paramilitary forces on duty; the demonstrators headed towards the national highway and staged a sit-in protest in the front of the Civil Secretariat where more people joined the demonstration and later started to burn tyres.
The police, had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the crowd following which some of the agitators burnt the office of the Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union and later also set the vehicles of the magistrate on duty and that of the CRPF personnel on fire.
Reports of stone pelting between the security forces and protesters continued to come from various places till the filing of this report.
Representatives of a number of communities from the Namsai and Changlang district that are not recognized as Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the state have been demanding that they be provided resident certificates as they have been living in the State for decades.
Among those communities are Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Misings. Most of these communities are recognised as Scheduled Tribe in Assam.
The issue of PRC gained momentum after Chief Minister Khandu, while addressing a public meeting at Vijaynagar in Changlang on December 14 last year, had announced that his government was looking into the odds of PRCs non-APST communities living in Namsai and Changlang districts and to the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar.
He, however, had said the interests of the indigenous population would be taken into consideration and cut-off dates would be set to qualify for permanent resident certificates.
Deputy chief minister Chowna Mein had in the same month said in Assam that granting PRCs to the non-APSTs would be a New Year gift for them.
Khandu, Mein and the government have been facing strong oppositions from various sections following the announcement.
After drawing flaks from various quarters, the state government had later clarified that it was in no hurry to grant the certificates and it would examine the matter only after receiving the final report from the JHPC constituted to look into the matter and later take it to the cabinet for a decision.
The last meeting of the JHPC was held on February 9 and it suggested “issuing PRCs to eligible non-APSTs of Namsai and Changlang districts in accordance with the guidelines that may be notified by the government.”
Though the state government has remained reserved about the JHPC recommendations till date, copies of the report submitted to the government by the committee has been circulating in wide in various social media platforms. This has led to several unions and organizations expressing their resentment and demanding the recommendations and the granting of PRCs to non-APSTs be scrapped.
The recommendation made by the JHPC is likely to be tabled in the legislative assembly on Saturday.