Arunachal Pradesh: A land that doesn’t belong to us

Dear Editor,
To an Arunachali, natural resources such as rivers, forests, and land are not inanimate non-living things, but part of its family. We personify our natural resources and worship them. For instance, river Siang (Brahmaputra) is not just a river to the Adis, but it is considered as our mother. With so much reverence the Arunachali have for their natural resources, it is natural that they would never give away their natural resources to outsiders.
For decades, the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh have been fighting to save our land from Chakma, Hajong,and Tibetans refugees.
We consider ourselves to be the rightful owner of the resources of Arunachal Pradesh. In Arunachal rivers, forests, mountains, and lands have owners. But I am sorry to tell you that the Indian law doesn’t recognise it. Unlike states like Nagaland and Mizoram in which the indigenous people have constitutional rights over their natural resources, the people of Arunachal Pradesh don’t have constitutional rights over the resources of the state, all thanks to the defective Statehood Act of Arunachal Pradesh.
What does it mean? It means that few politicians sitting in AC rooms in Delhi can decide what to do with our natural resources. Unlike states like Nagaland and Mizoram, in which the permission of the indigenous people are necessary to give green light to projects, the government does not need to take the permission of our people for the same. And that is exactly what has happened. So many Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs/MoAs) have been signed by our previous state governments with the central government and companies without permission or even knowledge of the indigenous people. For instance, Late Dorjee Khandu’s government signed more than 130 MoUs, many of which is likely to cause severe ecological and demographic impact in the region. For instance, take the MoU of constructing a dam in the river Siang. Previous state government did not feel the need to take the permission of the local residents before signing the MoU for constructing the dam which would create severe ecological threats to Upper Siang, Siang, and East Siang districts; and even to Assam. In Nagaland and Mizoram, no government can do that because unlike Arunachal, they are not governed by a defective Statehood Act.
To make the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh the constitutional owners of their resources and to make sure that no government can sign whimsical MoUs in the future which may pose ecological threats to us, the defective Statehood Act must be amended before we become refugees in our own land.
Kaling Jerang,
Secretary General, PPA