Itanagar: A pall of gloom engulfed Arunachal Pradesh as former Chief Minister Kalikho Pul, unseated on July 13 by a Supreme Court ruling, committed suicide, sending shock waves across the country. Pul, 47, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in the bedroom of the Chief Minister’s residence which he was yet to vacate, police said.
After claiming earlier that a suicide note was found, police later said what they found was not a suicide note but a dairy. “We are examining it. I have nothing more to say,” investigating officer R.K. Jha said. He said a case of unnatural death has been registered.
As news of the suicide spread, crowds gathered outside Pul’s residence to pay their last respects. But the situation turned ugly as the mob began to accuse some Congress legislators of betraying Pul. Many shouted slogans against the government of Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who succeeded Pul.
The mob vandalised the residence of Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and Industries Minister Tapang Taloh. A few parked vehicles were damaged. Some of them set fire to a coffin that was brought for Pul, claiming that a plywood coffin was too cheap for a popular Chief Minister like Pul.
“The law and order situation is under control,” Chief Secretary Shakuntala Gamlin told IANS. She said the people turned violent as they were not allowed to pay their respects because the police and medical officials were completing their formalities. Pul was widely admired for his compassionate approach towards the needy. He was known for high probity in public life and honest politics.
After becoming the Chief Minister, Pul began holding a ‘Janata Darbar’ every Saturday in different parts of the state. He allowed his official helicopter to be used for flying critically ill patients to Itanagar and to other places in the country for treatment. Pul’s body will be taken to his village Hawa.
Khandu called an emergency cabinet meeting and announced a three-day mourning. “The cabinet is shocked and shattered that our senior colleague and a seasoned leader took this extreme step,” an official said.
In a message to Pul’s wife, Khandu said: “It pains my heart to write to you at this moment of extreme grief. I humbly endure to share with you the saddest times of your life though I know that it would be hard to do so.”
Pul was yet to vacate the Chief Minister’s residence as his house was being renovated. A Congress leader, Pul took office on February 19, unseating then Congress Chief Minister Nabam Tuki. Later he and his supporters joined the People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA), a regional outfit.
After the Supreme Court reinstated the Tuki government, Pul and his supporters returned to the Congress and helped Khandu to become the Chief Minister. Congress MP Ninong Ering said: “Maybe loneliness crept into him. When your mind is empty, it is a devil’s workshop.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Pul’s death. “My thoughts are with the family and supporters of Kalikho Pulji on his sad demise. His service to Arunachal Pradesh will be remembered,” he said.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi expressed shock over his death.
Governor Tathagata Roy, in a letter to Pul’s wife, expressed shock over the sudden death “under tragic and mysterious circumstances. Communist leader D. Raja called the suicide “shocking” and said it was for the central government to find out what had happened. Pul, who represented Hyuliang constituency in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, had served in various capacities in the state including as Finance, Power and Tribal Affairs Minister.