From Our Correspondent
Itagar, Dec 27: The year 2016 turned to be a watershed in the political history of Aruchal Pradesh, as the Himalayan state plunged into months-long political turmoil that witnessed three chief ministers in a short span besides, imposition of President Rule in the state for a brief period and installation of a PPA government.
The political crisis in the frontier state stemmed from the ouster of Kalikho Pul, five time legislator from Anjaw district bordering Chi, from the Council of Ministers in April 2015. Soon after his dropping from the cabinet, Pul went about spilling the beans on the poor fincial health of the state under Chief Minister bam Tuki’s leadership. Pul was also termited from the Congress party though he maged to get a stay on the same from the courts. Soon some more legislators from the total 47 Congress members joined Pul in demanding change of leadership. Subsequently, five ministers and four parliamentary secretaries were dropped giving the first impression that the house was really not in order though the official version was something different. Many parliamentary secretaries and chairmen of various government agencies and boards also gave in their papers clearly defining the divide between the Tuki and Pul camps. Earlier, 16 Congress MLAs were reportedly made to sign irrevocable and undated resigtion letters at the official residence of the Chief Minister bam Tuki. But only Gabriel D Wangsu and Wanglam Sawin were actually axed when their seats were notified vacant on October 1. However, both the legislators maged to get a stay on their disqualification from the house from the Gauhati High Court.
The actual crisis was set off on December 16, 2015 when 21 rebel Congress MLAs joined hands with 11 BJP members and two Independents to ‘impeach’ speaker bam Rebia in a makeshift venue because he had locked down the assembly. Serious infighting broke out in the ruling Congress government led by chief minister bam Tuki, with 21 of the 47 members gunning for Tuki’s scalp. Faced with an imminent floor test, Tuki is believed to have delayed an assembly session while Rebia failed to convene the House within six months — as required. The deadline lapsed on January 14, 2016. Things precipitated when Governor JP Rajkhowa called for advancement of the assembly session from January 14 to December 16 and 17 and asked the deputy speaker to take up a motion seeking the removal of Rebia from the Speaker’s post.
An assembly session was convened in a makeshift venue on December 16 which was attended by 33 MLAs. The resolution for removal of Speaker Rebia is passed and a new speaker is appointed. On December 17, the rebels hold assembly in a hotel after community hall is razed, voted against Tuki and elected Pul as the chief minister. Soon, the battle moved to the judicial are after Rebia moved Gauhati HC to keep assembly and related developments in abeyance, with the court ordering that the governor’s orders be kept in abeyance. The Supreme Court referred the matter to a larger bench. Very embarrassingly, women activists affiliated to a certain political organisation even went to the extent of holding a ‘strip protest’ in front of the Raj Bhawan here on December 17, 2015 at the capital Itagar on 17 December, 2015.
The women were protesting against the Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa alleging him of favouring the dissidents and the opposition. The crisis deepened after President Prab Mukherjee on January 26 gave his approval to the cabinet’s recommendation for the state to be put under the President’s rule, a constitutiol provision that allows direct administration from New Delhi, following the political turmoil that began in November. On January 5, the Gauhati High Court stayed disqualification of 14 Congress MLAs while on January 6, the Supreme Court agreed to hear plea of Aruchal Speaker, removed by rebel MLAs. The apex court on January 13 ordered not to hold any proceedings in the Assembly till January 18 while referring the issue to a Constitution Bench the next day.
The Supreme Court on January 15 started examining constitutiol scope of discretiory powers of the Governor. On February 18, the apex court satisfied with Gauhati HC’s order staying disqualification of 14 MLAs, paved way for new government in the state. The court rejected Congress’ plea for floor test in the assembly on February 19, the day when President Rule was lifted from the state. Pul was sworn in as the chief minister of the state on February 20. In a sudden turn of event, the Supreme Court on July 13 this year while terming Governor’s decision as ‘unconstitutiol’ ordered restoration of Tuki-led Congress government in the state.
Tuki, however, almost immediately stepped down, making the way for Pema Khandu to take charge of the Congress government on July 16. Exactly two months after the Apex Court restored the Congress government in the state, the BJP on September 16 pulled the carpet from below the ruling party’s feet by getting the entire CLP – except former chief minister bam Tuki – to join the People’s Party of Aruchal (PPA), a constituent of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA). However, Aruchal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) President Padi Richo on November challenged the merger of Congress MLAs to PPA in the Itagar Permanent Bench of Gauhati High Court and the verdict is yet to be pronounced.
The Congress Legislature Party merging with the PPA came three days after a section of Congress MLAs approaching the BJP central leadership in New Delhi and expressing their desire to merge with it. The political developments moved so fast that Kalikho Pul, the man who had led the origil rebellion in the Congress was left in the lurch as all his followers too reverted to the Congress within less than 24 hours of the July 13 Supreme Court order.
Twenty-four days later, Pul was found hanging inside the chief minister’s official bungalow on August 9, which he was yet to vacate. Yet another person who faced the axe in the long-drawn drama is J P Rajkhowa, the governor who was dismissed on September 22, apparently because he had failed to ensure a lasting a BJP-led or BJP-blessed government in the state. Dasanglu Pul, the third wife of Kalikho Pul won the November 19 bye-election to Hayuliang constituency in a BJP ticket. A power scam amounting to Rs 450 crore involving Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju was also surfaced in the state during the year.
The Opposition Congress in the state had demanded ouster of Rijiju from the union council of ministers and a CBI probe even as Rijiju denied the allegations. Tragedy in form of landslides and accident also struck the state during the year. At least 21people died in landslides triggered by torrential rain in the state. While 19 people died in landslides at Tawang and Bhalukpong in Tawang and West Kameng districts during June and July this year, three members of a family were killed in a rain-triggered landslide at Seppa in East Kameng district on July 15.
Landslides caused by heavy rain also disrupted life in Tawang, Lower Subansiri, Changlang, msai and Tirap districts of the state during the year. Landslides also damaged several houses in Yazali and Hapoli in Lower Subansiri district. On June 3, five tea garden labourers died while 14 injured in an accident. The tea garden labourers died when the truck they were travelling by rolled down the road and fell into a deep gorge in Changlang district. Three persons died and seven were severely injured in a tragic road accident at Telam on the Assam-Aruchal border in the same month.
Several incidents of fire were also reported in the state during the year where over 200 houses were reduced to ashes and properties worth several crore were destroyed.
A new round of tension was forged between Chi and the US after Richard Verma becomes the first US ambassador to visit Tawang in Aruchal Pradesh on October 21.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said the US diplomat’s actions would damage the “hard-earned peace and tranquillity in the Chi-India border region.” Chi also protested over the visit of the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to Tawang and West Kameng district of the state during the first week of December this year.
The four day trip of the Karmapa included a visit to Sera Je Jamyang Choekorling mostery, the Sangyeling mostery and the famous Tawang mostery in Tawang, an area Chi claims to be of their own as part of southern Tibet. The Karmapa during his first visit also toured West Kameng district and gave a teaching to the Tibetans at Gyuto Mostery at Tenzingang before leaving for Kalaktang. On November 17, Chinese Embassy at New Delhi denied visa to Aruchal Pradesh State Badminton Association Secretary Bamang Tago, who was nomited mager of the Indian badminton team for the Thaihot Chi Open championship 2016 in Fuzhou. Incidents of transgression by Chinese Army into Aruchal’s territory were also reported during the year.
There have been two instances of Chinese transgressions in Aruchal Pradesh during July. One incident occurred in Kibithu area in Anjaw district on July 22 and the second at Thangsa in Tawang district. The law and order front was also not conducive in the state during the year. Two Assam Rifles jawan were killed and eight others injured when suspected NSCN (K) militants ambushed a convoy of the force near Wakka in Longding district on December 3 this year. In an offensive against militants, Assam Rifles jawans killed two cadres of the ULFA (P) and arrested other two at Vijoypur area in Changlang district on December 14.
A minor girl was allegedly raped and killed before her body was thrown into a jungle at Bhalukpong in West Kameng district during the month of July. Another Class VI student was allegedly raped by a constable of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) after he forced her to drink alcohol at Longding on March 2. A minor girl was also raped by Chakma refugees on February 11 when she, along with her friends, had gone on a picnic on the banks of the Bereng river at Chowkham in Lohit district. The rape and murder of a school girl in Tawang district, on August last year and arrest of eight students of her school had sparked a public outcry in the state.
A minor girl suffered serious spil cord injury while trying to escape from her captor, who tried to rape her on March 1.
In the development front, the state recorded major strides. Taking the e-Governce initiative further, the Aruchal Pradesh government introduced the e-Office suite in the State Civil Secretariat in order to go paperless in functioning of the government.