Supporters of the bandh ensured a complete closure of the National Highway at 2 Mile in Namsai (TNM Photo)

Many parts of Arunachal Pradesh witnessed complete shutdown on February 21 against the grant of permanent resident certificate (PRC) to non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe (APST) communities of Namsai and Changlang districts.

Normal life at Namsai, Itanagar and various parts of the state was severely affected as the bandh supporters blocked national highways and shut shops.

As many as 18 organizations, including students’ unions and civil society groups, called for a 48 hour bandh against the Arunachal Pradesh government’s proposed move to grant PRC to several communities of Namsai and Changlang districts.

A senior officer said that the agitators, on the first day of the two-day bandh, hit the streets in Itanagar and pelted stones at government vehicles, prompting the police to detain 21 of them. “All business establishments remained closed on Thursday and public vehicles stayed off the roads,” Superintendent of Police M Harsh Vardhan said.

The organisations, which included the All Papum Pare District Students’ Union (APPDSU), the Arunachal Law Students’ Union, the Nyishi Ethnic Students’ Association, the All Tagin Students’ Union, and the United Arunachal Indigenous People’s Forum, on Tuesday served an ultimatum to chief minister Pema Khandu, demanding rectification in the joint high power commission’s recommendations on the PRC issue.

Expressing strong objection to the JHPC’s recommendations, the organisations urged the JHPC members to study the pros and cons of the report in consultation with independent experts and rectify their statements before it is submitted to the state government.

In the past few weeks, Namsai district has seen several bandhs and economic blockades – both against and in support of the PRC issue. On February 19, members of several non-APST communities of Namsai and Changlang districts, under the banner of the ‘Deprived Indigenous Communities of Namsai and Changlang District of AP’ organised a rally in Mahadevpur (Lekang Assembly Constituency) in Namsai district seeking immediate issuance of PRC. Among these communities include Deori, Sonowal Kachari, Moran, Adivasi and Mishing.

Namsai Bandh Call against PRC 1 – The News Mill
Markets, offices were shut in Namsai in support of the bandh call

The PRC issue in Arunachal Pradesh picked pace after chief minister Pema Khandu, while addressing a public meeting at Vijaynagar in Changlang district on December 7 last year, announced that his government was looking to give PRC to non-APST communities living in Namsai and Changlang districts and to the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar.

Further, Arunachal Pradesh deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, who represents the Lekang Constituency in Namsai district, said that the PRCs will be a ‘New Year gift’.

Later, the state government clarified that the interests of the indigenous people would be taken into consideration and cut-off dates would be set to qualify for PRCs.

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