KOHIMA: Kohima, the capital city of Ngaland, remained on edge on Thursday with protesters firm on resignation of the T.R. Zeliang-headed Nagaland cabinet following the death of two persons in police firing on Tuesday evening during protests against holding of urban local body elections.
Thousands of protesters targeted several government offices and even set on fire the municipal office, the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF)’s office and the transport office after Zeliang and his colleagues did not quit by the 4pm deadline set by the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee, Kohima.
Security personnel had a tough time controlling the situation. Nagaland director-general of police L.L. Doungel told The Telegraph yesterday evening that the situation was “quite chaotic and going out of hand”. Another officer said the situation was “very, very tense”.
By 9pm, Zeliang had, after discussion with his cabinet colleagues, accepted two of the demands set by the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) today – declaring the poll process “null and void” and transferring the commissioner of police, Dimapur, to facilitate an impartial judicial inquiry into the death of the two youths.
The Zeliang cabinet had on Wednesday decided, going by the “sentiments” of the people, to ask the state election commission to “withhold the ongoing process of elections” and take up the remaining process of polls to the urban local bodies after two months.
Zeliang, who became chief minister in 2014, this evening also issued an appeal for peace, his second since yesterday, but appeared firm on not quitting or buckling under pressure.
The CMO sources said only Neiphrezo Keditsu, MLA of Northern Angami II Assembly constituency, had “resigned” on “moral ground” as one of the deceased in Dimapur was from his own village.
A public appeal issued by the CMO media cell this evening said Zeliang was distressed by the turn of events and had appealed to all not to indulge in “senseless vandalism and arson”.
The government, the appeal said, is also of the opinion that it has been lenient enough to give in to the demands of the protesters though it was steadfastly abiding by the Constitution.
“Making unreasonable and unconstitutional demands such as asking the entire cabinet to tender resignation when the ministry has undisputed, unquestionable majority and support of the entire Assembly is simply unacceptable and non-negotiable,” the appeal said.
The Nagaland House has 60 members and Zeliang heads an Opposition-less NPF-led government.
An NPF member said several rounds of talks have been held unsuccessfully between the protesters and the government since yesterday.
“This evening, the protesters set on fire the municipal office, the old MLA hostel and the NPF office. The DC’s office was also vandalised. The protesters are awaiting the governor’s response to their demands,” he said on Thursday.
Nagaland governor P.B. Acharya, who is in Itanagar, will reach Kohima today but he has responded to the NTAC memorandum. While appealing for peace, Acharya said he has directed Zeliang to address their demands “promptly and impartially”.
Protests against the state election commission’s decision to hold urban local body polls by reserving 33 per cent of the seats for women in accordance with the Constitution peaked on the eve of the polls with the police having to fire on protesters in Dimapur and in Longleng, where there was vandalism. Two persons, Khriesavizo Metha and Bendangnungsang Ao, were killed in the Dimapur firing. The trade hub is witnessing an indefinite bandh since Tuesday.
The state election commission, however, went ahead with the elections in 15 of the 32 civic bodies amid curfew in some towns and protests against the death of the two youths. It put off the polls in seven other urban local bodies for two months. In 10 towns, including Kohima, no candidate could file nominations because of warning by anti-reservation supporters.
The protests shifted to Kohima after the bodies were taken there last evening. Sources said the protesters refused to cremate the bodies unless the government acceded to their demands.
The Centre is closely monitoring the situation. Union home minister Rajnath Singh called Zeliang to enquire about the law and order situation and backed him for holding the polls to “fulfil constitutional obligation”.