‘Government will get culprits behind massacre arrested’

The week-long economic blockade of Arunachal Pradesh by some organisations in Sonitpur district of northern Assam, choking supplies of essential commodities, was lifted on Thursday. The district administration assured the agitators that the Assam government would get those responsible for the massacre of 10 persons in the Behali reserve forest, about 12 km from here, arrested.

The protesters gave a month’s time to the government to fulfil their demands, one being that the Arunachal Pradesh Police arrest and hand over to the Assam Police those who killed the victims in indiscriminate firing on January 29.

After the blockade was lifted, over 500 trucks carrying supplies, stranded here along National Highway 52 for the past week, left for various destinations to the Arunachal Pradesh capital, Itanagar, and different districts. The agitators had forced nearly 100 oil tankers to return over the past week, which resulted in a severe fuel shortage in Itanagar and interior places. The government rationed fuel, giving only five litres of petrol and 10 litres of diesel to every consumer. A few private banks in Itanagar closed transactions for want of fuel for generators.

Ananda Das, Behali Anchalik unit president of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), said the decision to lift the blockade on humanitarian grounds was taken following assurances by the Sonitpur Deputy Commissioner Lalit Chandra Gogoi to look into the demands. The organisations which took part in the discussion included the Arunachal Agrasan Pratirodh Samithi (Arunachal Aggression Resistance Committee), a CPI(ML)-backed body, the All Adivasi Students’ Association, the All Assam Minority Students’ Union and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samithi.

After the blockade was lifted, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki issued specific directives to senior officers to ensure the safe and speedy return of people stranded in Guwahati and elsewhere.

Assam Home Secretary G.D. Tripathi told The Hindu that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi would write to Mr. Tuki and initiate measures for apprehending and handing over to the Assam Police the six lead conspirators of the January 29 incident, who hail from Papumpare district of Arunachal Pradesh bordering Sonitpur. He said the Director General of Police, Assam, had already shared their names with his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart.

Mr. Tripathi said that for the past two years, activists of the Arunachal Agrasan Pratirodh Saimithi (Arunachal Aggression Resistance Committee), in the name of protection of Assam’s land, had been setting up camps inside reserve forests. They were evicted by the Forest Department after being identified as encroachers. Encroachment from the Arunachal side had to be carefully handled. “If we try to evict them, it would lead to a conflict between police or forest forces of the two neighbouring States. Hence our efforts are on to continuously engage the neighbouring State in a dialogue to resolve the border dispute. However, we want those behind the January 29 attacks to be brought to book. We are also seeking intervention of the Ministry of Home Affairs and requesting for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation,” he said.