May 21 Killings Of Arunachal MLA, Family Remind Of State’s Decades-Long Violent Past


With several factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), a militant group operating in Arunachal’s Tirap district, located in the eastern region bordering Myanmar, and the Indian Army there to counter them – there is no escape from violence for the common man.

Even the people, who are accustomed to facing extreme situations, were not prepared for the barbarity inflicted on eleven people, including a sitting MLA and his son, on May 21.

Though no one has taken responsibility for the killing of Tirong Aboh, the National People’s Party candidate for Khonsa West, it is a well-known fact that Aboh was a vocal critic of the NSCN (IM).

After one of his workers was killed by NSCN (IM) at the beginning of the elections, Aboh had urged various factions of the NSCN, particularly the NSCN (IM), stop interfering in the election process.

Soon after, another local leader was assassinated.

In another case, a Congress candidate from Lazu was allegedly forced to withdraw his candidature by the NSCN (IM).

The violence perpetrated by various factions of the NSCN in electoral politics is not new, particularly in the three districts of Tirap, Longding and Changlang, claimed as part of Greater Nagalim. The three districts have been under the grip of various factions of the NSCN, with K and IM being the most active for the last three decades.

In the last two decades, many local boys from the three districts have also joined the ranks of these militant groups, further complicating the already precarious situation.

Besides encounters with the security forces, the Naga organizations – NSCN (IM), NSCN (K), NSCN (U), NSCN (R) – have been involved in turf wars in the state. ‪

On May 31, 2018, three people were killed and another was injured in a fierce gun battle between NSCN (IM) operatives and the NSCN (U) in Tirap.

Ironically, NSCN has also suffered the highest number of casualties, right from killing of its cadres to dismantling of their huts.

And the violence peaked during the elections. There have been several reports of kidnappings, torture, firing and threats to contesting candidates, particularly from the NPP.

Meanwhile, regular operations against the NCSN groups, particularly against the IM, by the security forces in Arunachal have left the people wondering about the fate of the ‘framework agreement’ signed between the Narendra Modi-led BJP government and the NSCN (IM) in 2015.

“Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future. We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige,” the prime minister Narendra Modi had said in his address after signing the agreement with the Naga leaders.

However, the framework agreement, which was touted as an agreement to pave the way for a final and lasting solution to the Indo-Naga issue, is yet to be finalized or even made public.

There has been no letup in violence in Changlang, Tirap and Longding districts even after signing of the peace agreement. Various Naga groups have continued to engage in turf wars as well as in armed conflicts with the Indian Army, resulting in several casualties and injuries, with the NSCN (IM) at the fore of these conflicts.

While the framework agreement may have worked elsewhere in the region, it has been inconsequential in these three districts as violence continues. It’s been more than three decades since the districts became a battlefield for various underground organizations, and the brutal murders of May 21 once again show that peace is nowhere in sight.

Tongam Rina is an award-winning journalist based in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.

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