In the northeastern region, which is marred by insurgency, Arunachal Pradesh has always been seen as a peaceful state (and is a peaceful state) except for the far eastern corner of the state, where insurgency has taken a foothold.
Arunachal, like any other state/place in India or in the world, has also experienced protests, bandhs and other forms of democratic agitation, and in some situations innocent lives have been lost. However, the state has always remained relatively peaceful.
The recent killing of the sitting MLA from Khonsa West and 10 others, including the MLA’s son, by suspected militants has shocked everyone in the state. The manner in which human lives were so easily wasted raises questions on the values we ascribe to each other as fellow human beings and makes for a chilling realization.
In this scenario, the fragile environment in which we live is further exposed when the state capital itself comes to a halt on the eve of the election results. The insecurity of the people on the eve of such an important day, which is the culmination of what is called the ‘festival of democracy’, is a commentary on governance and the democratic spirit – a revelation of our distrust and prejudice.
It is to the credit of the citizens of Itanagar that it remained peaceful throughout the day on 23 May, despite the implied connotations of the deserted roads. At the same time, I cannot also escape a feeling of shame that, as citizens of a vibrant and great democracy, we can be so easily cowed down by rumours, suspicions and prejudices. And it makes one wonder if our freedom can be so easily surrendered while we are imprisoned by our own imagined fears.
I was not born in Itanagar, and I may not die in Itanagar; but I live in Itanagar, and it is my city, and I hope this peaceful city, which is growing and changing every day and becoming more exciting each day, does not come to a halt every other day.
There is, however, hope for this city as it has proven our own imagined fears wrong on Thursday, and I hope this city will prove our pessimism wrong again and again.