Itanagar, April 2: A case of mistaken identity today led to the first reported incident of poll-related violence in Itanagar when members of the Students’ Union Movement of Arunachal (SUMA) allegedly set fire to NCP MLA and its Northeast in-charge Mmhonlumo Kikon’s car on a city hotel’s premises believing it to belong to a Naga People’s Front (NPF) worker.
Five youths were arrested in this connection.
Eyewitness said around 40 students’ union members on motorbikes, who had gathered to stage a protest against the entry of NPF in Arunachal Pradesh, set fire to a Mahindra Bolero bearing a Nagaland registration number around 9.30am.
The attackers were reportedly shouting anti-NPF slogans in front of police and security personnel.
Miffed by the assault, the state NCP unit lodged an FIR against the students’ union at Itanagar police station.
NCP state general secretary Nima Sangey Saling condemned the incident saying it is “devastating for the prestige and dignity of the people of Arunachal”. Saling said it “shames the inclusive spirit of the people of Arunachal”.
He said: “Elections should not be used as an excuse to express communal intent and cause harm to others just for the pure reason of limited xenophobic thrills.”
Saling alleged that the attack was a pre-planned one and stated it is “clear that the NPF and NCP are two different parties”.
The students’ union president Biri Tabing has, however, denied the allegations claiming that union members were not involved in the attack.
“It is a political conspiracy,” Tabing said. “The union is being targeted because we have been opposing the entry of the NPF in the state.”
The students’ union has been fervently opposing the entry of the NPF in Arunachal Pradesh based on its nomenclature that the party “stands only for the cause of the Nagas” but would “consent if any party reflects the regional character of other northeastern states”. Earlier on January 23, a 12-member NPF team, led by its secretary-general K.G. Kenye, was confronted by members of the students’ union after the party addressed a news conference here in Itanagar, eventually leading to their “eviction” for failing to acquire valid inner-line permits. Although Kenye said the party would rethink the suggestion to change its name before making electoral entry into the state, 11 NPF candidates are in fray for this year’s Assembly elections.
In 2009, the Election Commission denied permission to the party to contest the state Assembly polls for failing to change its name from Nagaland People’s Front to the current Naga People’s Front.