Itanagar: A recent statement made by Arunachal Pradesh home minister Bamang Felix on the state government being unaware of some insurgent groups collecting a certain percentage of money from local and government employees living in Tirap, Longding and Changlang region not only made headlines in several media outlets including EastMojo, but also invited criticism from many sections of society.
When EastMojo tried to collect more details on the matter, this correspondent came across many who considered that the collection of money by the underground elements was actually an open secret, which no one including the government wants to speak about.
Tihang Afi, a PhD student from Rajiv Gandhi University and a resident of Tirap district, said that the problem which the people of the region faces is something which actually cannot be understood by others.
“In the late 1980s, the region, especially Tirap, saw an era where development was moving in a fast manner. However, the picture changed suddenly in the later part of 1990, when insurgency stepped into the region. Following that, the locals started to witness a series of instances that included extortion, kidnappings, murders, etc. These automatically and suddenly affected the development process. The major things that took a toll were education, infrastructure, health and so on,” Tihang said.
Speaking on the locals of the area paying taxes to the insurgent groups, Tihang said he has been living in the capital for some time now and was not exactly sure about the present scenario.
“I am not sure about what’s exactly happening at present. However, when I was living in the area with my family, people used to pay taxes for owning a car, building a house or running a business. They did this to make sure that they were safe from the atrocities of the insurgent groups,” said Tihang.
Political leaders and public figures were the first to be targeted by these groups, he added.
Tihang said that not only the people but even the ones they elect and consider them as leaders are not vocal about the issues pertaining to insurgency. “Even after MLA Tirong Aboh and 10 others were brutally killed, the leaders of the region have so far not been able raise a strong voice,” Tihang said.
Tihang appealed all the leaders from the region to come forward and stand together with the people so that citizens living in Tirap, Changlang and Longding areas can come out of this chaos.
Meanwhile, All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) general secretary Tobom Dai said that by stating his government was unaware of these facts, the home minister is indirectly encouraging the underground elements.
“We understand the part that Felix has just taken over the position of a home minister and he may not be properly briefed on the prevailing scenario of the three districts. However, this secret of militants collecting money from the locals and government employees is well known to all,” Dai said.
Dai said that not only the present government but all the previous ones are well aware of this fact.
The AAPSU general secretary also went on to state that insurgency is not a home-grown issue in the region but one which has been imported for political ambitions.
“Even the legislators of the region are hand-in-gloves with these militants. The only solution to this menace is a strong political will. If the state and central governments are willing, then this issue can be terminated once and for all,” Dai added.
He said that the AAPSU has started a movement in which it is demanding the government to immediately expel all underground elements from the state once and for all and for which a sit-in protest was also organised by the union and its federal units all across the state on Saturday.
On the other hand, one of the student leaders, who did not want to be named, said that some of them have already started to get threat calls from groups asking them to drop the issue.
The Tirap, Longding and Changlang region of Arunachal Pradesh has been engulfed in insurgency for the past two decades. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), which is predominantly active in the region, is a Naga nationalist insurgent group functioning largely in Northeast India, with minor activities in northwest Myanmar (Burma).
The major goal of the organisation is to create a sovereign Naga state, “Nagalim”, which would consist of all the areas inhabited by the Naga people in Northeast India and Northwest Myanmar. Two major factions of NSCN include NSCN (K), led by Khaplang; and NSCN (I-M), led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muviah.