Looking back in sorrow

[ Taba Ajum ]

The violence which was witnessed in the capital last week has left a deep sense of anger in the heart of every right-thinking Arunachalee. It has been a painful experience to witness the death of three youths in the anti-PRC agitation. Even as I write, several protestors are still recovering from injuries in various hospitals.
Some would say it’s not the right time to find faults at a juncture when everyone is still recovering from the trauma; but still, someone has to do the hard job of pointing out where things went wrong.
First of all, the state government failed to read the pulse of the citizens. It underestimated the power of the ordinary citizens and went ahead with the effort of trying to push for PRCs for non-APSTs. It was only when the anger broke out into violence that the government took the decision to abandon the PRC issue. Also, the antennae of the police intelligence miserably failed to pick up the possibility of large-scale violence.
The loss of three lives was the saddest part of the agitation. The names of Biki Ruja, Risso Tare and Tsering Wangdi shall forever remain in the heart of every Arunachalee.
Ruja was personally known to me. Besides studying in Dera Natung Government College, he used to work as a night watchman and sold newspapers to fund his education. During the time he worked as a night watchman at Rajiv Gandhi Polytechnic College, I often used to come across him, as I stay in the college’s campus. In the press, we work late and, quite often, when I used to reach the college gate by 10 pm or so, Ruja used to smile and greet me in Nyishi language, saying, “Achi hapa ku ai (elder brother, you are back)?”
Even in the midst of the tragedy, Ruja’s mother, Biki Yapa, showed exemplary courage and made a passionate appeal for peace. Her kindness is a lesson for every one of us. Even the family of late Risso Tare repeatedly kept appealing for peace when his body was kept at IG Park. It was wonderful to see people talk sense in the midst of violent mobs.
As we look back, there were three categories of protestors. The first group was mostly young and innocent students who were truly upset with the government’s move. The second were political activists and people with personal agendas who were trying to take maximum mileage out of the situation. The third group comprised opportunistic antisocial elements that were out there in the streets with the sole motive of looting shops. Surprisingly, a large number of non-APSTs were part of this last group. Further, it was absolutely wrong to attempt to damage a religious place like the Itanagar gompa. What had a religious place to do with the anti-PRC agitation?
Sadly, the people’s movement against the wrong policy of the government was later hijacked by these antisocial elements. Also, during this whole time, most of the political leadership was missing from the scene. Barring Chief Minister Pema Khandu, RWD Minister Bamang Felix and APCC president Takam Sanjoy, who all appealed for peace through the media, most of the political leadership was missing in action. MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju, who is a member of parliament from western Arunachal and one of the tallest leaders of the state, did not issue a single statement to the press during the entire period. He should know that leadership is not only about being part of festival celebrations.
Meanwhile, the image of the state capital has taken a severe beating in this whole process. It is the duty of every citizen to create a congenial atmosphere, so that every citizen feels secure here. Remember, Itanagar belongs to every Indian, and no one has a monopoly over it. Hopefully, peace will permanently return to the capital complex. We simply cannot afford to lose any more lives.