Through your esteemed daily I would like to draw the attention of the asserted elites of Arunachal. I am writing this because I believe this is the only platform where I can dispense my heart out especiallysince I have engulfed this within me for way too long now. I am writing today not to express my grievances but to educate the ignorant elites of Arunachal and to draw the attention of the concerned authorities. Many of you must be aware or at the least acquainted with the discipline Anthropology. But for the educated few who doesn’t know what this discipline deals with; no it is not the study of ‘ANTS’; [trust me I have been asked this not once but multiple times] also yes it has something to do with human behavior [often asked], no it is also not the study of bones [often asked] but yes we do have craniometry and somatometry where in we deal with physical and anatomical characteristics of human and primates; yes, anthropology is Science and Social science at the same time it is the amalgamation of the two and that’s what makes it unique in its approach…. and yet this one question I often fail to answer, “what is the scope of Anthropology?”.
No, it is not that Anthropology doesn’t have any scope in Arunachal but in fact Arunachal is a virgin field for Anthropologists to document the diverse culture especially at this point of time when the entire Arunachal is changing rapidly with so many cultural practices almost at the verge of extinction. But I am usually without any answer because the highest authority in the state has failed to understand the discipline. This negligence can directly be mirrored in the govt. colleges in Arunachal where anthropology is still not taught at undergraduate level except for St. Claret, Ziro and St. Francis de Sales, Aalo [both private colleges]. The discipline has been neglected for way too long now. Even when any research programmes come up in various departments the specialization that is asked as the criterion more than often includes only Social work/sociology but Anthropology is often missed out. In a very heartrending incidence I was once questioned by a fellow gentleman of my hostel while I was in my 3rd semester, he was confused to see me for another year in the hostel as he thought Anthropology was a certificate diploma course for a year [sigh].
Arunachal Anthropological Forum (AAF) has long been demanding for introduction of anthropology discipline since 2007 but so far all appeals have failed to make the concerned authority understand the situation. Since the inception of Anthropology as a discipline in Rajiv Gandhi University in the year 2001 under the aegis of the Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies (former Department of Tribal Studies) and which is now functioning as an independent Department since June’ 2012, eighteenth batch is accruing their education from the department.
And to add the plus point of the discipline, nine scholars have already awarded PhD and 45 students have already qualified UGC-NET exam validating the academic excellence of the discipline. But dismissal part of the subject is that the discipline is yet to be introduced in the colleges for under-graduate studies. Anthropology, as you might be aware of, is an intellectually challenging, theoretically ambitious subject, which tries to achieve an understanding of culture, society and humanity through detailed studies of the indigenous tribals, supplemented by comparison of the various communities. Anthropologists study all aspects of human life and culture. They attempt to examine topics such as how people live, what they think, what they produce and how they interact with their environments. They try to understand the full range of human diversity, as well as what all people share in common. Anthropologists try to find answers to questions like when, where and how humans evolve? How do people adapt to different environments? How have societies developed and changed from the ancient past to the present? The answers to the above questions help the present day human beings to understand what it means to be human. In fact, anthropological contribution for understanding basic human values, inter-ethnic relations, problems of ethnicity, and policies related to development of the larger mass in the areas of health, education and economy, especially for the underprivileged and marginalized population have been acknowledged all over the world. And it can be argued that anthropology is indispensable for understanding the present world. Every educated person of our state knows how anthropologists had played a crucial role in the formulation of the policies of Arunachal Pradesh from the erstwhile NEFA. It was Verrier Elwin, an eminent Anthropologist, who contributed his Anthropological knowledge in the overall protection and development of the tribal people of the state. In fact, the only worthwhile books one can read about tribes in general and Arunachalee in particular are those written by anthropologists and anthropologist-administrators. Their monographs on various tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are the only authentic sources of information on what we were like in the past, what were our history and our culture. we too have a dream to carry out productive and innovative works; our potentials and valuable time have not been used to deliver for betterment of Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal being a state of various ethnic groups has broad scope for the anthropology for documentation and researches. We deserve the knowledge to address our problems and our programs of sustainable development. Above everything the urgent task of this hour is to create an environment of multi-culturalism and respect for other’s cultures. In fact, combating ethnocentrism or regionalism has been named frequently as one of the core idea of teaching anthropology. Also our women need attention, our children need better social environment, our age population needs special health care and for all these we need academic environment where knowledge is cultivated and help human society for it prosperity. I on behalf of all the anthropology fraternity, strongly urge the concerned authority to take necessary initiation so that Anthropology could be introduced at under-graduate level to enable students accrue proper knowledge of the subject and effective growth of the discipline. Introducing the subject at under-graduate level will give multifaceted career options as well as fulfill the aspirations of the students and people of this frontier state for proper dissemination of Anthropological knowledge and if not a lot of human resources will fritter away.
“The purpose of Anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.”
UGC-NET-JRF holder and PhD Anthropology, RGU