Yobin youths don’t deserve prolonged detention

[ Liahey Ngwazah ]

Notwithstanding the bail order of the honourable judge of the D&S court, Yupia, the president of the All Yobin Students’ Union, the president of the Yobin Youth Association and three other youths are still in jail since December 2020 for the sake of Arunachal panchayat rights pertaining to the indigenous people of the state.

In Arunachal Pradesh, panchayat nomination is possible only by the local indigenous residents as per the existing rules (ref: extraordinary gazette notification of GoAP, No 261, Vol XXVI, Naharlagun, 25 June, 2019, amendment of Form 4. 9. iii).

However, in Vijaynagar circle, the same panchayat raj has been wrongly extended to the non-indigenous settlers comprising retired Assam Rifles families, comprising five communities, and mostly of Nepali-speaking pensioner families.

To correct this anomaly, the Yobin tribe of Vijaynagar has been appealing to the authorities concerned for several years. Numerous representations were submitted, five peaceful rallies were held, and a record six-day hunger strike was held at Itanagar in December of 2019. The fasting was ended as the panchayat minister promised to correct what was wrong with the PR affairs.

However, even as the Yobin community waited for the authorities to look into the issue, there was not a sign of action regarding the genuine demands. Instead, when the time came to exercise the panchayat nomination, 2020, for the lone ZPM seat in Vijaynagar, the ruling ticket was given to a settler named Sujatha Rai.

The Yobin community once again took out a rally on 11 December, 2020, in Vijaynagar. And unfortunately, this rally turned violent. Several offices were gutted, which is very much regretted.

By and large, the Yobin community has been one of the most peaceful and hardworking tribes of our state. That violence is not in the blood. But the sole violent episode seemed to have erupted due to extreme frustration over severe attritions suffered over the years and the utter disregard to the demand to set right the panchayat incongruity pertaining to Vijaynagar circle.

Consequently, many arrests were made. And while most got out on bail, the president of the All Yobin Students’ Union, the president of the Yobin Youth Association and three other youths are still arbitrarily detained at the Changlang sub-jail.

The cases against each of them have been heard by the district & sessions court, Yupia. And after 107 days in the Jully jail, the learned JMFC of the capital and the honourable judge of the D&S court, Yupia, granted each of them bail. The bails were duly executed on 8 April, 2021, and they came out of the central jail, Jully. The JMFC and the judge weighed everything carefully. They noted that all of those cases were associated with a rally in Vijaynagar; that they have no history of any crime; that all of them were students and youth leaders; and that they be granted bail and made to abide by strict terms of the bail, which the youths agreed to wholeheartedly.

Surprise detention: As soon as they left the outer gate of Jully jail, even as the bailers were getting ready to take them home, a team of police from Changlang whisked them away to Changlang under the NSA.

We know that this detention is uncalled for. The terms and conditions of the bail as stipulated by the D&S court, Yupia, is more than enough to deter any future violence or any unlawful activities.

The detained youths confessed to the court and the NSA advisory board (on 17 May, 2021) that the protest that turned violent was out of frustration. They said they would not resort to such violence or unlawful means in the future.

Also, the bailers of each of them, before the judge, apex Yobin CBO leaders, before the DM had taken undertakings that these youths would not be allowed to engage in such violence or unlawful activities in the future.

The families, as well as Yobin public leaders, GBs, former panchayat leaders, etc, have been appealing in person to the DM, our local MLA, and others. The written appeals have been sent to the chief minister, the home minister, the chief secretary, etc, but favourable responses are still awaited.

Let it be known to all that these detained youths are zealous social activists. There is not a single adverse record against any of them at any of the villages of their domicile. And as far as the current cases are concerned, it surely is an aberration. Although their ‘means’ unfortunately transgressed the law, their ‘end’ was legitimate and legal and genuine, as such is admitted by one and all.

We want to claim that, since our country’s jurisprudence is for reformation and does not have punitive intent, they should be freed with whatever admonitions they are in need of. They have been in jail since December 2020. It’s been a long time. Also, the current detention seems to go against the fundamental right enshrined in our constitution [Article 20 (2)]. Since their cases are being tried by the D&S court, Yupia, detention for these very same cases by framing them under the NSA is not needed, so we believe.

These youths are our own brothers. It benefits no one to keep them in jail for so long during such a pandemic.

Finally, we appeal to the authorities concerned to help the youths, so that they are released from detention, and let them abide by the terms and conditions of bail already granted them by the honourable judge of the district and sessions court, Yupia, since 8 April, 2021. (Liahey Ngwazah is a family member of the detainees and a blogger at yobindreams.wordpress.com. He can be contacted at liahey@gmail.com)