Army flag march in Itanagar after mob violence, film festival venue destroyed

first_imgFriday night’s mob violence in Itanagar, triggered by the Arunachal Pradesh government’s move to grant permanent resident certificates to six non-tribal communities, left one person dead in police firing and another grievously injured. The government clamped prohibitory orders and suspended Internet service. The Army staged a flag-march on Saturday. These measures came after protesters went on the rampage, destroying private and government property.The violence coincided with the start of the first Itanagar International Film Festival (IIFF) that was envisaged the Frontier State as a film destination. A mob ran through the festival venue – Indira Gandhi Park in the heart of the city – destroyed five inflatable cinema halls, cars and almost everything else standing.This forced the organisers, a Goa-based firm, to call the festival off.The mobs continued to vandalise property and burn vehicles till about 4:30 am on Saturday, much after Chief Minister Pema Khandu tried to douse the flames by announcing that his government would not discuss the PRC issue during the current Assembly session “keeping in view the present situation”.Officials in Itanagar said a mob – women and elderly among them – surrounded the Assembly building and threatened to burn it down. They damaged the vehicle of former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki at the gates as most of the other MLAs stayed the night in the Assembly for fear of being assaulted.The police resorted to firing when another group tried to storm the Secretariat building in Itanagar. A man from Kimin in Papum Pare district died in the firing while another person, injured, was being treated at the Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Sciences at Naharlagun nearby.Security was particularly strengthened around the house of Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein as the protestors threatened to bury the body of the man killed in police firing at his residence. “We had to call in the Army for a flag-march to instill a sense of security among the people and clamp Section 144,” a senior police officer said.Mr Mein, along with Mr Khandu, had sought the granting of PRC to six of the Frontier State’s non-tribal communities – Adivasi, Deori, Gorkha, Moran, Mishing, and Sonowal Kachari – some of whom are Scheduled Tribes in Assam.These six communities are dominant in Changlang and Namsai districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Mr Mein represents the Lekang Assembly constituency in Namsai district.Internet shut, call for calmIn an order on Friday night, the State’s Home Commissioner G.S. Meena said telecom service providers have been asked to suspend internet services for the next 24 hours. “This is in view of the law and order situation to avoid rumour-mongering through the internet,” he said.The Chief Minister on Saturday appealed for calm, accusing “vested interests” of misleading the people over the PRC issue. “The government had never intended to bring a Bill on the PRC issue, which was blown out of proportion leading to misunderstanding among the people,” he said.A joint high power committee (JHPC), headed by Environment and Forest Minister Nabam Rebia, to look into the PRC issue had prepared a report that was to have been discussed in the Assembly, he said.“JHPCs formed earlier, one of which involved Takam Sanjoy, had also recommended PRC for the communities concerned,” he said, adding that his government would never take a step that would affect the indigenous communities.A former MP, Mr Sanjoy is the president of Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee.Naga rock band hitOne of the worst affected by the mob violence was Nagaland-based singer, composer, and songwriter Alobo Naga, the frontman of popular rock band Alobo Naga and The Band (ANTB). He had reached Itanagar on the fateful day to perform at the film festival.Many of Alobo Naga’s shows across the globe have been in conflict zones. He had a first-hand experience of violence in Itanagar, the place he least expected to be “caught in the crossfire”.Winner of the Best Indian Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2012, Mr Naga said he had never imagined in his worst nightmare that he would become the victim of mob violence.“Trouble had started brewing when I arrived here. I thought the film festival venue would be a safer place to park my music van than the hotel. This (Saturday) morning, I found my van burn along with my guitar, keyboard and other music instruments,” he told The Hindu from Itanagar.The van, he said, was worth Rs 25 lakh and the music instruments priceless.Other participants at IIFF too were counting losses like the Nagaland rock band. A Guwahati-based supplier of acoustics and tent material said the mob destroyed “almost everything” running into a few million rupees.Apart from damaging at least 20 vehicles at the Dorjee Khandu Convention Centre – in Itanagar’s VIP area – where the main screen of the film festival was installed, the mob destroyed five inflatable screens at the Indira Gandhi Park besides everything else standing there.“We had installed five inflatable halls with a screen, each with a capacity for 130-150 people. They are all damaged,” an organiser said, declining to be quoted.“Many artistes invited for the film festival were caught at the venue the whole night. The protestors did not harm anyone but cars and equipment of many artistes,” film-maker Utpal Borpujari said after participants were escorted out of Itanagar.The organisers had curated 51 films, seven from film-makers of the north-eastern sates, for the festival. The films included Bulbul Can Sing by national award-winning director Rima Das of Assam.last_img

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