The Centre on Friday asked Assam Rifles to ensure safety of Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang, amid ongoing violent protests in parts of the state protesting 33 per cent reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies.
On Thursday, violent mobs went on the rampage in Nagaland capital Kohima vandalising and setting on fire government offices and vehicles, prompting deployment of five columns of army to bring the situation under control.
"I have talked to the Director General, Assam Rifles and told him that the Nagaland Chief Minister and his residence have to be saved," Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said.
He also appealed agitating people to shun violence.
"We understand the sentiments of the people, but this is no way that you attack the cabinet and vandalise government (institutions)," the minister said on the sidelines of a function in New Delhi.
He asked people to understand the attempts made by "some forces" who are trying to provide tool to the agitation.
Rijiju said central forces have already been deployed there to ensure safety of people.
The Nagaland government has been facing stiff opposition from tribal bodies over introduction of 33 per cent reservation for women in the urban local bodies.
The urban local bodies elections have been due in the state for over 16 years.
The Zeliang government decided to hold the polls following an interim Supreme Court order in a case filed by the Naga Mothers' Association for a directive to the state government to implement 33 per cent reservation for women in the ULBs, like in many other states.
Apparently under pressure from the protesters, the state government on Thursday declared the elections process null and void there.
Anger was brewing in the state since the killing of two protesting youths in police firing at Dimapur on Tuesday.
"We are sad for all those who have been killed in police firing. We appeal to the people there to follow the due process and ensure proper last rites for the dead bodies," Rijiju said.
He said that the Centre would provide any support sought from it by the Zeliang government.
"If the state government seeks any other support, we are ready to provide it. Nagaland is a sensitive state and it is important to ensure law and order there at any cost," the minister said.
Activists of several tribal groups had on Thursday vandalised the State Election Commission and deputy commissioner's office and set ablaze the Kohima Municipal Council building.
The Regional Transport office and that of the Excise Department were also set ablaze by violent mobs demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister Zeliang and his entire cabinet for going ahead with the ULB polls despite opposition from powerful tribal groups that are against 33 per cent reservation for women in the municipal bodies.
Prohibitory orders promulgated by the Kohima district administration under section 144 CrPC in certain areas in Kohima continued to be in force with no reports of untoward incident on Friday.
Prohibitory orders were in force in areas including Raj Bhavan, chief minister's official residence and civil secretariat.
Nagaland Director General of Police L L Dougel said the police, CRPF and Assam Rifles have secured the Raj Bhavan, chief minister's official residence and the civil secretariat.
Meanwhile, the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee, representing different tribal organisations, proceeded with the burial of the two bodies on Friday.
Earlier in the day, people from all walks of life participated in a peaceful prayer service in the heart of the state capital for the two protesting youths who were killed in police firing at Dimapur on Tuesday.
The prayer service was conducted by the Kohima Baptist Pastors' Fellowship at the spot where the bodies have been kept since Wednesday evening.
Neiphiu Rio, the lone Lok Sabha MP from the state and former chief minister, attended the prayer service and laid wreaths on the bodies.
"No elected goverenment should go against the wishes and voice of the people," he said, describing the entire episode as "tragic".
He blamed the state government for "misusing" their power against the wishes of the people.
Replying to a query whether President's Rule can be imposed in the state, he said, "It depends on the central government."
Nagaland Governor P B Acahrya, who also holds the dual charge of Arunachal Pradesh, arrived here from Itanagar, Raj Bhavan sources said.
While a total bandh is being observed in Mokukchung, and Dimapur district on Friday, movement of vehicles are being allowed in Kohima to enable people attend the prayer service.
Mobile data service and SMS were not functioning since the last four days though there has been no official order to this effect.
Image: Protesters burn tyres on the road during a bandh called by Joint Coordination Committee against 33 per cent women reservation for the forthcoming Municipal and Urban Local Body election in Dimapur. Photograph: PTI Photo