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Violence in Kohima, mobs set ablaze govt offices

Kohima: Violent mobs went on the rampage in the Nagaland capital on Thursday to vent their anger against ongoing elections to urban local bodies, vandalising and setting on fire government offices and vehicles, prompting deployment of five columns of army to bring the situation under control.

Activists of several tribal groups vandalised the State Election Commission and Deputy Commissioner’s office and set ablaze the Kohima Municipal Council building. The Regional Transport office and that of the Excise Department were also set ablaze by violent mobs demanding the resignation of Chief Minister T R Zeliang and his entire cabinet for going ahead with the ULB polls despite opposition from powerful tribal groups that are against 33 per cent reservation for women in the municipal bodies, sources said.

Army sources said five columns, each comprising between 50 and 70 personnel, have been pressed into service to contain the situation. The violent protests forced Zeliang to call off the elections. Earlier in the day, the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC), representing different tribal organisations, had served an ultimatum to Zeliang and his cabinet to resign by 4 pm, remove Dimapur Commissioner of Police and also declare the election process, already under way, null and void.

The NTAC had also submitted a memorandum to the Raj Bhavan in the absence of Governor P B Acharya, who was in Itanagar, in support of its demands. Acharya holds dual charge of the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh. Anger was brewing in the state since the killing of two protesting youths in police firing at Dimapur on Tuesday. It grew further after the bodies were brought and kept in the heart of Kohima town last evening. Under pressure from NTAC, Zeliang, declared the election process null and void and also transferred the Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police of Dimapur to facilitate an impartial inquiry into the firing incident.

Though the Chief Minister’s decisions were announced before an angry crowd of protesters after the 4 pm deadline had expired, they turned violent. The Zeliang government has been facing stiff opposition from tribal bodies over introducing 33 per cent reservation for women in the urban local bodies. ULB elections have been due in the state for over 16 years. In 2012, these bodies had pushed the state assembly to pass a resolution not to hold the ULB polls even though an amendment to the Municipality Act 2001 was passed in 2006 providing for quotas to them.

However, Zeliang government decided to hold the polls after the cabinet gave the go ahead for it following an interim Supreme Court order in a case filed by the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) for a directive to the state government to implement 33 per cent reservation for women in the ULBs, like in many other states.