An indefinite strike that has been imposed in Likabali, Arunachal Pradesh from Sunday over the recent decision by the state cabinet to notify the town as temporary district headquarters of the newly functional Lower Siang district, has brought life to a standstill in the small but growing town. All roads including the national highway, considered as a lifeline of the foothill areas of the region has been blocked while administrative offices, educational institutes and commercial activities remain suspended or closed.
Protestors are demanding the notification of Likabali, the largest town in Lower Siang as the permanent District Headquarters. The strike is being spearheaded by the Likabali Youth Federation, Likabali Elite Forum, Ramla Bango Student Union, Likabali Volunteer Youth Association, Likabali Women Welfare Society and other civil organisations. Agitators say that the demand for installing Likabali as the district headquarters has been going on since 1994.
Tom Taju, president of Libo Student’s Union, one of the organisations heading the strike said that the recent agitation is because of a February 7 notification by the state cabinet to make Geru, another town, 40 Km away from Likabali, as the permanent district headquarter.
“The Pema Khandu government has decided to install Likabali as the district headquarters, but Geru was selected to be the new headquarters after a recent cabinet meeting, where Health Minister and local MLA Jomde Kena had proposed the name of Geru as it is his native place. Likabali is the gateway to Lower Siang district and the foothill areas. Now the government has notified Geru as the new district headquarters. It has no infrastructure, is in a sinking zone and is a designated coal mining activity area. It also has no proper drinking water facility,” Taju said.
The student union leader further stated, “Making Likabali the district headquarter will not only make cross border (Arunachal-Assam) law and order situation disappear but will also lead to the development of the district. We demand that Likabali should be made a permanent district headquarter. A feasibility study should be carried out, perhaps by means of a mass gathering in the presence of administrative officers. Temporary is temporary, the order should be suspended,” adding that there are vested interests on part of the MLA and he is trying to make the district his own kingdom.
The agitators also made an appeal to Union MoS Home, Kiren Rijiju to intervene in the matter and notify Likabil as the District Headquarter of Lower Siang in the interest of the foothill areas.
Meanwhile, the office of the SP and a vehicle was burned down on Sunday, marking the first day of the protests. Agitators say that the incident was a bid by some circles with vested interest to malign the democratic protest of the people and show that there was no security and order in the town. They said that the democratic strike will continue till the decision to make Geru the district headquarters is not reversed. Likabali is a sub division town near the Assam-Arunachal border in the newly functional lower Siang district. It is a historic area for the Galo tribe, who forms majority of the population.