[ Zilpha Modi ]
Several tribal organizations in Arunachal have repeatedly argued that tribal women, when married outside of their tribal community, particularly to a ‘non-tribal’, should be stripped of their tribal identity. Recently, organizations have demanded that not only the ST status of such women but also their permanent residence certificates should be abrogated.
This implies that in Arunachal, tribal identity is something that is sacred and pure, and that the extent of its purity is solely based on tribal men. What do tribal men possess that they are the sole carriers of the pure tribal identity?
Elderly tribal men say it is the traditional patrilineal system that makes men the only carriers of true tribal identity; that this lineage system, counted only from the male line, sustains the purity of the tribal bloodline.
Interestingly, everyone in Arunachal is aware that this claim of a pure tribal bloodline is a hoax.
Tribal men themselves do not maintain a true tribal bloodline by marrying ‘pure’ tribal women. Tribal men are polygamous. They have no reservations about marriage with tribal, non-tribal or foreign women.
However, if a tribal woman follows the same path, suddenly the whole institution of tribal society and identity is thought to become impure. The whole idea of a tribal society is thought to be nearing extinction. Why is it that the tribal purity is shaken when a tribal woman marries a ‘non-tribal’ but not when a tribal man marries a ‘non-tribal’ woman? The idea of a pure tribal identity stands only on misogynistic grounds. (The writer teaches at the Arunachal Institute of Tribal Studies, RGU, Rono Hills.)
[ Zilpha Modi ]