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CCoFA blinks first: NH bandh called off after CM’s assurance

By Our Reporter Updated: Oct 19, 2016 12:41 am

DIMAPUR, OCTOBER 18 : The stare-off between the state government and the Co-ordination Committee on Fuel Adulteration (CCoFA) witnessed the latter blinking first on Tuesday when it announced the decision to call off the “indefinite” bandh on NH 29, and on vehicles allotted by the government of Nagaland.

At round 2 pm on Tuesday, members of CCoFA announced to reporters that they have decided to place the “indefinite bandh” under temporary suspension. This decision, they reasoned, was “taken to the best extent possible.”
In truth, the decision of the CCoFA to suspend their agitation “temporarily” was taken immediately after a meeting with TR Zeliang at the CM’s residence at 3rd Mile, Dimapur. CCoFA members told reporters that they had called off the bandh following an assurance from the chief minister that the Special Investigation Team (SIT), formed to probe fuel adulteration charges, would submit its charges within 7 days. Reportedly, the chief minister promised the CCoFA members that in the event of the latter being left unsatisfied with the SIT report, an “independent inquiry” commission would be formed to investigate the same. Zeliang, it was reported, also promised the CCoFA members to send a written assurance through the chief secretary.

It was pointed out to the CCoFA members that they were, in principle, agreeing to allot a 7-day window to an SIT report that they had rejected earlier in unequivocal terms. Even on Monday morning, the first day of agitation, CCoFA members had told reporters that the SIT report was of no concern to them.

So what prompted this sudden change of stance in the space of roughly 24 hours, they were asked. “Earlier, the terms of reference for the SIT did not include the Food and Civil Supplies (FCS) department (which meant that the FCS would not be investigated. But the chief minister assured us that the SIT will look into all angles,” they explained.

The interpretation was that by “all angles”, the chief minister meant inclusive of the Food and Civil Supplies department. On top of that, they were also given the choice of rejecting the SIT report and opting for an “independent inquiry” – in case they find the SIT findings not satisfactory.

All those factors combined persuaded the CCoFA members to suspend their agitation temporarily. Around 25-30 CCoFA members attended the meeting with Zeliang, who was accompanied by the deputy commissioner of Dimapur.

Among those to attend the meeting with Zeliang were 9 CCoFA members who were detained earlier in the morning by Dimapur police. They were “detained” at around 7.30 am from Chathe Bridge and kept for hours inside a 1st NAP quarter-guard. “However, prior to the arrest, the officer-in-charge ACP, Khalo Kapfo was asked why he felt the gathering was unlawful if no curfew or section 144 CrPC had been imposed? He had no answer since there was none,” the members stated. Incidentally, the officer in question is also one of the members of the SIT formed to probe the allegations of fuel adulteration.

Among the 9 detained leaders, three were signatories to the FIR lodged at Diphupar police station that led to the formation of the SIT. This, according to the CCoFA members, was simply a reflection of the integrity of the SIT members.

Terming the detention as “unlawful”, CCoFA members demanded that the “higher-ups should probe” the incident. “They cannot just arrest citizens standing by the roadside.” They also rubbished claims by the Dimapur police that the latter had promulgated curfew under section 144 CrPC.

“They are simply trying to cover-up the detention. If they had introduced section 144 CrPC, then they should have made the mandatory public announcement, which they didn’t,” pointed out a member of CCoFA. “Later on, as news of the arrest spread, the local youths, as instructed by CCoFA leadership, were marching peacefully towards the arrest site to court arrest as part of Jail Bharao strategy. However, IRB jawans led by a DSP officer brutally assaulted the youths, near the 1st Gate, Chumoukedima. The VP of CTYO was seriously injured requiring 6 stitches on his profusely bleeding head,” a statement from the CCoFA on Tuesday night informed.

The curfew under the provisions of section 144 CrPC was, according to the statement, imposed by the Dimapur police to cover-up their own brutality. It pointed out that while the order was issued at around 8.30 am, the police had claimed that the same was issued at 7 am.

“This back-timing was done solely to cover up the police’s misconduct and in order for the police to give the justification that unlawful assembly had taken place. Also, it is greatly surprising that the police chose to impose 144 CrPC in secret without even a single soul knowing about it? The sheer dishonesty of this order should shame even hardened criminals. The CCoFA condemns such dishonourable conduct,” it stated.

It also condemned the police assault as inhuman and suggested that the officer who led the assault must “either be a psychotic or a backdoor appointee who doesn’t know the meaning of court arrest for there is no other explanation as to why he should behave that way”. It demanded suspension of the police officer.

Besides baton-charge, the police were also accused of resorting to blank-firing. “At the end of the day, they are there to ensure our safety, and not to flex their muscles,” as put by one of the CCoFA members.

A Dimapur police official said that the police had retaliated with use of tear-gas only when they were provoked by the crowd gathered outside Police Complex, Chumukedima. He also informed that the 9 CCoFA members detained in the morning were released only after they were made to sign a “certain conditional bond.” Dimapur police, he told reporters, had clamped section 144 CrPC in along the National Highway in Chumukedima area at 7 am on Tuesday, he said.

Also, an “emergency meeting” of DAN legislators on Tuesday decided to endorse the decision of the cabinet to declare the CCoFA bandh as illegal. This was informed through a press release issued on Tuesday.

By Our Reporter Updated: Oct 19, 2016 12:41:53 am