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'Return Us Our Livelihood': Artists Rue Loss as Arunachal Violence Hits Maiden Film Festival

Several vehicles parked outside the venue were set ablaze by the mob. The stage, portable movie theatre, generator sets as well as musical instruments of the artists were also vandalised.

Pranjal Baruah | News18

Updated:February 25, 2019, 12:06 PM IST
'Return Us Our Livelihood': Artists Rue Loss as Arunachal Violence Hits Maiden Film Festival
Three people have been killed and over 35 others injured in the protests. (PTI)

Itanagar: The state government's decision to give permanent resident status to two tribes from outside the state has kept Arunachal Pradesh on the boil since last week. After an agitated mob ransacked and burnt the private residence of deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, the first International Film Festival in Itanagar had to bear the brunt of protesters' fury.

Several vehicles parked outside the venue were set ablaze by the mob on Friday night. The stage, portable movie theatre, generator sets as well as musical instruments of the artists were also vandalised.

The festival was later called off and over 50 artists, filmmakers, musicians from Mumbai, Goa and other North-eastern states were evacuated safely. Bollywood actor-director Satish Kaushik was amongst them.

Popular Nagaland-based musician Alobo Naga, whose vehicle along with musical instruments were set on fire by the agitators, recalled the evening and said, "As a musician, our musical instruments are our sole source of livelihood and they don't even have insurance. Therefore, I request the government to also pay compensation to all who lost their valuables in the violence."

Assam's heartthrob Zubeen Garg, endorsing Naga, asked the state government to immediately compensate the musicians. On Sunday, the artists' fraternity in Assam took out a rally in Guwahati, condemning the violence.

Chinmoy Banikya, a guitarist from Assam, said, "It looks like a conspiracy to unstable the region. The issue of 'outsiders' has always played a major role in politics of the region. When Assam is boiling over the issue of outsiders from outside the country, the neighbouring state is undergoing similar trouble on the issue of outsiders from other states."

As the situation in Arunachal Pradesh deteriorated, chief secretary Satya Gopal in a statement said, "Considering the present situation in respect to the matter pertaining to the grant of PRC to non-Arunachal Pradesh communities of Namsai and Changlang districts, the state government decided no further action shall be taken in respect of the grant of PRC."

So far, at least three people have been killed and over 35 others, including 24 police personnel, were injured in the protests. Over 200 vehicles, including police vans and official vehicles, were damaged since Friday. Army has also been called in and is conducting a flag march in the violence-hit areas of Itanagar and Naharlagun.

The administration clamped curfew and suspended internet services until the situation improved.

Besides ransacking deputy CM's residence, a police station and deputy commissioner's office, protesters also torched down a shopping complex in Naharlagun. A person also died in firing by security forces after a mob tried to attack chief minister Pema Khandu's residence.

The issue of granting PRC has been sparking isolated incidents of agitations in the state since December last year, when Khandu and Mein had announced that people from six communities including Moran, Deuri, Mishing, Sonowal, Adivasi tea tribes and ex-servicemen residing in Changlang and Namsai districts prior to 1968 will be given PRC as a 'New Year gift'.

The fresh wave of violence began on Friday when locals called for a strike opposing the government's move to table the recommendation followed by a police firing during a protest march and death of a protester. Sources said that a group of agitators were marching towards the state secretariat when police open fired.

Already, the ongoing assembly session was also adjourned sine die by speaker Tenzing Norbu Thongdok on Saturday. Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu clarified that the state government was not bringing the bill on PRC but only tabling the report of the panel. However, despite the state government declaration, the protests continued and the protesters were demanding the resignation of both the CM and Deputy CM. Sources said that the state possibly is staring at a President Rule shortly.

Senior Congress leader Takam Sanjoy said, "The ruling BJP government has been playing politics over the issue. When the state is burning, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, India from Arunachal Pradesh Kiren Rijiju has no time to take action to douse the violence. The Central government has failed to maintain law and order." On Sunday, Rijiju in a tweet asked the state's people to maintain peace.

Police said that a large number of protesters marched through streets here damaging public property and vehicles on Sunday. “They vandalized state police station and attacked us. There were blockades on the road leading to the Naharlagun railway station, resulting in inconvenience to many passengers, including patients being held up at the station since Sunday morning," an officer said.

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| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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