Nagaland’s key cities remained shut for the third day Friday with mobs, protesting 33 per cent reservation for women in urban local bodies, blocking the highway between Dimapur and Kohima as authorities scrambled to quell the violence a day after the Kohima municipal council building and several government and private offices were set ablaze. Five additional companies of Assam Rifles were deployed Friday to step up the presence of security personnel on the ground.
Parts of Dimapur and Kohima remained under curfew and there was no movement of vehicles across the inter-state gates in Dimapur. Mobile services including SMS and Internet also remained suspended across the state — services were switched off on January 30 to prevent the spread of rumours. Hundreds of people alighting in Dimapur, which has the state’s lone railway station, have been stranded due to the indefinite bandh and curfew.
Chief Minister T R Zeliang met Governor P B Acharya Friday evening to discuss the situation. The Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC), spearheading the protests, too met the Governor and submitted a memorandum. Earlier in the day, Zeliang issued a statement saying he was distressed by the “unfortunate turn of events in the last few days”.
Rejecting calls to step down, especially after two protesters were killed in police firing in Dimapur Tuesday, Zeliang appealed to people not to indulge in “senseless vandalism and arson”, reminding them violence had no place in a civilized society like that of the Nagas. He also appealed to social media users to be responsible and desist from spreading rumours which would further confuse people.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Kohima, Nagaland DGP L L Doungel said: “The situation is still tense, but definitely under control. The crowds have dispersed after bodies of the two youth killed in police firing on Tuesday were buried in Kohima this afternoon. There is perceptible improvement in the situation, and Friday remained incident-free in both Kohima and Dimapur.”
The indefinite bandh called to protest the holding of municipal and town committee elections with 33 per cent quota for women, and then to seek the ouster of Zeliang following the death of two youths in Dimapur, continued Friday. According to the DGP, protesters have blocked the Dimapur-Kohima highway at several spots. “We have, however, kept tight vigil in both cities. Curfew is on at select places in Kohima and Dimapur where there is still some possibility of trouble,” he said.
On Thursday evening, angry mobs set ablaze the Kohima municipal council building and adjoining offices, including those of the regional transport authority, excise department, state information commission and a railway passenger reservation service office. The Kohima press club too was destroyed. Protesters gathered in thousands at the main junction in Kohima to demand the resignation of Zeliang and his cabinet. They surrounded the bodies of the two youths — Khriesavizo Metha and Bendangnungsang — from Thursday night to Friday afternoon when they finally buried them near the Old Secretariat compound.
The NSCN (IM), which waged insurgency for decades in the Naga hills before agreeing to a ceasefire, condemned the police firing in Dimapur and called for resolving differences “through dealing space and time for a negotiated settlement” between the state government and all stakeholders.