Exclusive | City-Based artists narrowly escape Itanagar Mayhem
GUWAHATI: It was a narrow escape for artists from Guwahati and other parts of the country at the Itanagar International Film Festival as a mob ran amock at the venue destroying everything they could lay their hands on. The people were protesting against the government's move to grant permanent resident certificate (PRC) to six non-tribal communities. Artists and delegates from all over the country and Northeast had reached the venue to take part in the festival on the request of the Arunachal Pradesh government.
Sharing his terrible experience with G Plus one of the artists, Sumon Dutta said, "All our equipment have been destroyed. The lead and bass guitars were inside the cars. Two Innova vehicles of ours were burnt along with 30 odd other vehicles inside the concert venue. Plus, sound and light equipment worth Rs. 5 crores was burnt down. Four inflated cinema halls worth Rs. 4 crores each have been turned to ashes. It started at around midnight. Not even a single policeman was there. There were around 5-6 hundred people protesting against the PRC and on top of that the government wanted to carry on with the programme. We reached on 21st as we were escorted from the state border. Everything was fine till 4:30 in the evening and suddenly stone pelting started. At around 11:30 PM as the situation went out of control one guy was shot in the police firing that ignited the whole situation. Their idea was to burn the secretariat right next to the hotel where the delegates and artists were staying. They were targetting the government vehicles initially but when a person was shot it spiralled into more violence.
Dutta explained that the protesters targetted the venue as the event was supported by the government. "Their protest was against the government's move on PRC. As the programme was government supported they targetted the festival venue and burnt everything to the ground. Seven generators were burnt. We somehow managed to come out of the place. Another popular band Alobo Naga lost their vehicle and instruments worth Rs. 6 lakhs. As we were getting ready for the evening we were on our way to the hotel to freshen up. We had to go back to the venue as stone pelting started. For the protesters, the cars inside the venue became easy targets. The started breaking the glasses and used petrol bombs and burn the vehicles. These were mostly 17-18 year old kids, both boys and girls," said Dutta.
Assamese artist Kopil Bora was also in Itanagar and shared his harrowing experience, "It was like a scene out of a movie. We were inside a hotel near the secretariat where the action was going on. There was stone pelting and suddenly they started burning vehicles right in the middle of the road. The venue is a five-minute walk from the hotel. Everything in the IIFC venue was burnt down. In the morning it was a peaceful rally but later it turned violent. The artists lost all their musical instruments and other equipment in the fire. Everything was burnt down. Even the mini cinema halls and generators were burnt. The artists somehow managed to flee the spot. It takes just 20 minutes to reach the Assam border and that was the longest journey of my life. The road was strewn with burning tyres and barricades. It was the Itanagar International Film Festival that had delegates from all over the world. There was total breakdown of law and order as there was no security in and around the venue. The delegates and participants and artists were not harmed but they lost all their belongings and instruments. Their vehicles were reduced to ashes. The government reaction was too late and the situation went out of hand."
Protesters burn down vehicles in Itanagar