Non-APST community members taking out a rally in Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh over the killing of a man on October 8 Credit: EastMojo Image

Itanagar: Local residents in large numbers took to streets of Naharlagun near Itanagar on Thursday to protest against “forceful closure of shops and illegal rally” that was taken out by a section of the non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe (APST) community on Wednesday over the alleged killing of one non-APST by a local over a minor scuffle.

The rallies on consecutive days were associated with the death of Dinesh Sahani from Assam’s Biswanath Chariali, who was allegedly beaten to death by 33-year-old Gida Punio, over a scuffle.

According to the police, 30-year-old Sahani, along with a dozen others were heading back to Naharlagun after Durga idol immersion programme around 6 pm on October 8. On their way back, the pick-up truck that they were travelling in bumped into an SUV driven by Punio.

The driver of the pick-up truck did not stop and made an attempt to flee from the scene. In the rush, the pick-up truck rammed a scooter and then a wall after which it was immobilised. Punio, in the meantime, caught up with the vehicle and then allegedly started assaulting Sahani and the driver, Devol Chaudhary. Sahani was taken to a hospital where the doctors declared him brought dead, the police said.

Following this, the non-APSTs on Wednesday staged a protest rally demanding arrest of the culprit and punishment as per the law. The protesters also forcefully closed shops in Naharlagun while a few of them also threatened to impose a blockade on Arunachal, said reports.

This, however, did not go down well with the locals, who on Thursday took out a peaceful protest demanding “arrest of the ringleaders who led the protest and aggravated the situation”.

Thursday’s protesters were also of the opinion that “the non-APSTs have no right to make any provocative statements against the indigenous people of the state or threaten them when the accused involved in the incident has already been put behind bars”.

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The police had reportedly arrested the culprit on the evening of the assault, who now has been charged with murder.

Capital SP Tumme Amo, who was on ground to assess the situation on Thursday, assured that proper investigation would be carried out and appropriate action would be taken against the law breakers.

Appealing all to stay away from making it a communal issue and not to take law into their hands, the SP said that justice will be delivered on all fronts.

Meanwhile, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) also demanded that the ones responsible for adding fuel to the fire, threatening and making derogatory statements against the indigenous people, be arrested at the earliest and their ILPs and trading licences, if any, be cancelled.

Condemning the October 8 incident, the AAPSU at the same time said that there is every possibility that Wednesday’s rally carried out by a few non-APSTs could be intentional and an effort to create law and order problems.

“The statements made by the protesters have hurt the sentiments of the indigenous people. There have been instances where Arunachalis have been the victims, but we have never made it a communal issue. We want to live in peace, but we will also not accept these intimidation and coercive behaviour of the non-Arunachalis,” AAPSU president Hawa Bagang said while addressing media persons.

The AAPSU, meanwhile, has called upon the administration to make it compulsory for building owners to collect the documents of the tenants and also to ban the further formation of all non-APST organisations.

The All Nyishi Students’ Union (Ansu) has also appealed all groups to maintain peace.

Addressing a news conference at the press club in Itanagar on Thursday, the union’s vice-president, Tana Sushil Tara, condemned the protest and forceful closure of shops at Naharlagun.

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