Protests in Arunachal’s Itanagar continue for second day over APPSC exam leak

Normal life was affected and internet services continued to be shut for the second day in Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar Saturday after a strike called by the Pan Arunachal Joint Steering Committee (PAJSC) turned violent.

The protesters have been demanding the fulfilment of the 13-point charter after the alleged leak in the question paper of the Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (APPSC) recruitment examination last year.

The situation remained unchanged on Saturday as protests continued, even as tight security bandobast was seen on the streets, especially around high-security zones like the civil secretariat, Raj Bhawan, and the state legislative assembly buildings.

At least 10 people, including four police personnel, were injured Friday after agitators clashed with the police in Itanagar as the police resorted to lathi charge and burst tear gas shells to control the unruly mob.

The state home department had issued an order Friday, saying internet services of BSNL and other private service providers would remain suspended until 5 pm on Sunday “to prevent further occurrence of serious law & order problems and in the interest of public emergency/safety”.

The protest came shortly after the state government organised a swearing-in ceremony of new members of the state public service commission, which earlier saw several top officials suspended over the alleged paper leakage of the written examination (Mains) for the post of assistant engineer (Civil) on August 27 and 28 last year.

After the protests broke out, the Arunachal Pradesh government called off the Commission’s members’ swearing-in event as the protesters demanded to defer the event. They also voiced objections regarding the appointment of retired Lieutenant General Shantanu Dayal as the chairman of the Commission. While the APPSC rules have provisions for chairmen to retire at 62, Dayal is 61 years old.

After their objections didn’t receive any response, PAJSC activists came out on the streets to protest violating restrictions imposed under Section 144. The violent mob also set a motorcycle and a car ablaze, ransacked a few properties in the capital city and allegedly pelted stones at security personnel, following which they lathi-charged, burst tear gas shells, and tried to control the situation.

The Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission paper leakage issue has seen a series of steps being taken by the government, including a police enquiry, a special investigation cell formed under the vigilance department, and eventually the probe being handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in September last year. The apex central investigation agency had filed a charge sheet against eight people accused in the probe on December 9 last year.

Among the six people, who were arrested over the paper leak case until the case was handed over to CBI, are examination in-charge Taket Jerang, who used to be the deputy secretary and deputy controller of examinations at the Commission, a candidate in the recruitment examination, a teacher of a coaching institute, and a middleman. The Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (APPSC) regretted the leak later and said that Taket Jerang was suspended right after his arrest on September 16.

The All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) and All Nyishi Students Union (ANSU) had held a series of protests after which Chief Minister Pema Khandu said his government had taken “serious note” of the issue and was working to “streamline the system” of recruitment in public service commission examination.

Citing similar irregularities in APPSC in 2014 and 2017, the student bodies had said investigations started in similar cases earlier but ended inconclusively and demanded that those responsible for the recent paper leak issue were brought to the book.

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