Killing of Arunachal MLA Tirong Aboh: What we know so far

Abhishek Saha
Tirong Aboh was the outgoing NPP MLA from Khonsa West.

The Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts of Arunachal Pradesh — which lie surrounded by Assam, Nagaland and Myanmar — is a violence-prone area in which the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is in force. Militants belonging to the multiple factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), and, in some parts, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) are active in these districts. The AFSPA does not apply to Arunachal as a whole.

Tuesday’s killing of 11 people, including National People’s Party’s (NPP’s) Arunachal MLA Tirong Aboh, in Tirap, is feared to have been carried out by the NSCN-Isak-Muivah. Although the NSCN-IM is currently in peace talks with the Government of India, its cadres are suspected to be involved in violent acts in these districts.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju posted on Twitter: "I’m shocked and saddened by the brutal attack and tragic killing of MLA Shri Tirong Aboh of Arunachal Pradesh, his family including 11 people. Strongest possible action will be taken against those responsible for such dastardly attack."

On April 11, Arunachal voted simultaneously for two Lok Sabha and 60 Legislative Assembly seats. The BJP, Congress and NPP are the main parties in the fray to form the government in Itanagar. The Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, and People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA) also have a minor presence in the state.

The NPP was founded by former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma after he was expelled from the NCP and is now led by his son and Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. Besides Meghalaya and Arunachal, the NPP is also present in Manipur and has a unit in Nagaland.

Tirong Aboh was the outgoing NPP MLA from Khonsa West, and also his party’s candidate for the same seat in this election. In the run-up to the polls, two political workers were attacked and killed in Longding and Tirap. Aboh had been very vocal against the militants after the killing in Tirap.

He had also asked the Election Commission of India to provide additional security to ensure free and fair polls. According to Arunachal observers, interference in elections by the NSCN-IM is not new, but the two earlier killings, and now this massacre, is a dramatic and worrying escalation.

The history of Arunachal is unlike that of any other state in the country. The region was earlier called the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), and after Independence, it was administrated by the Ministry of External Affairs. In 1972, NEFA became a Union Territory and was renamed Arunachal Pradesh. In 1975, the UT acquired a legislature and, on February 20, 1987, it became a state.

There is no indigenous insurgency in most parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The people of the state are known to be fiercely pro-India and patriotic. "Jai Hind" is a common greeting, and Hindi is spoken widely.

A couple of militant organisations claiming to fight for the rights of the Tani people who live in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam — such as the National Liberation Council of Tani Land (NLCT) and the Tani Land National Liberation Tigers (TLNLT) — have no support on the ground and are all but defunct, as is the Arunachal Dragon Force (ADF), which at one time fought to create a separate state out of parts of Arunachal and Assam.