Families of detainees seek leniency; govt defends action

[ Bengia Ajum ]

ITANAGAR, 25 May: Among the 36 people booked under the Arunachal Pradesh Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (APUAPA), 2014, during the recent 72-hour ICR bandh, and whose detention has been extended to 30 days, four are aspirants who were part of the Pan Arunachal Joint Steering Committee (PAJSC). They are Jidam Riamuk Cherom, Leena Sora, Hage Butung and Gekar Riba. Their arrest has not only shocked their friends but also their families.

Before the APPSC paper leak scam hit the state, these four were busy in their respective lives, trying to make a living while also preparing for the examinations. Their lives changed when the paper leak scam was unearthed.

“Jidam is the eldest among his siblings and the sole bread earner of the family. After completing his graduation in BSc agriculture, he started teaching mathematics to students of Classes 9, 10, 11 and 12. With this he was supporting the family before his detention. With his arrest, our entire family is facing a lot of trouble now,” said Ani Dai Cherom, wife of Jidam Riamukh Cherom, who was preparing for the agriculture development officer (ADO) examination.

She appealed to the state government to show leniency to his husband and his friends. “My husband was deeply frustrated with the situation. Out of sheer frustration he might have committed some mistake in the process. But he is a family man and has no past criminal record. The state government is like our guardian, and I am hopeful that it will show leniency to my husband and his friends. We are ready to extend cooperation to the government,” she said.

One of the prominent faces of the PAJSC led movement is Leena Sora, who is also behind bars now. An MA literature student, she completed her bachelor in education from Rajiv Gandhi University. Sora was teaching in a private school before becoming part of the PAJSC and had written the PGT examination which got cancelled. She also cleared the CTET 2021.

Hage Butung, one of the sane voices of the PAJSC, and who led a rally organised by them in Ziro, is another who has been incarcerated.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the government engineering college in Aurangabad in 2018. Butung also wrote the AE electrical-2022 examination, which was later cancelled after the scam hit the state.

“He is the president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Unemployed Electrical, Electronic, Mechanical & Computer Engineers’ Association, and was actively working to correct the loopholes in government departments, such as creating more posts/vacancies across departments and implementation of the recruitment rules,” said a friend of his.

Gekar Riba was running an online coaching centre with his friend, teaching English and current affairs to his students, before joining the PAJSC as a member. An MA literature student, he narrowly missed the sub-inspector examination in 2022.

“The manner in which the administration has hounded aspirants, crossing all boundaries of privacy and decency, using the cell phones of the detained members is deplorable. The manner of arrest from the residences of the aspirants shows the intent of the government and the administration,” said one of the aspirants, seeking anonymity.

“Using the APUAPA, which originally was UAPA – used against the highest order of crimes – on the protesting aspirants is not justified,” she said, and added that “the government must act justly and rationally and not jeopardise the careers of the young aspirants.”

Meanwhile, the state government has defended its action. Speaking to this daily, a senior official claimed that the government has shown enough lenience to the aspirants. “We have been lenient towards them. They used democratic means for protest and we always respected it. We have done whatever is possible from our side in regards to the paper leakage scam. In February they shut down the ICR, knowing very well that the president of India was coming for the statehood day celebration. This was extreme provocation but the government understood their emotions and agreed to all of their demands.

“Majority of the 13 demands have been met and work is going on over the remaining demands,” the official said.

“Bandh call is illegal and therefore we had no choice but to take action against them. But still we are ready to listen to them, provided they shun illegal activities like bandh, etc. Our door is open to their families. They can meet the DC and the SP of ICR and place their grievances. We are ready to listen to them,” the official added.