Democracy on a tightrope

Monday Musing

[ Taba Ajum ]

In the last one month there have been two major developments which have become a cause of worry for every right-thinking citizen of Arunachal. The first is the decision of the new chief minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, to push for the harsh Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, which aims to prohibit cattle trade and slaughter in Assam. The second is the arrest of three people for allegedly morphing images of Chief Minister Pema Khandu and a woman and sharing them on social media with the intention to hurt their reputation.

Coming to the Assam Cattle Preservation Bill, 2021, this move is a start of Brahmin hegemony in the Northeast region. Sarma, who is a Brahmin himself, not only wants to impress the RSS with the move but also wants to send out a message that Brahmanical hegemony will start with his regime. The BJP is well aware that Assam has large Muslim and tribal populations who not only consume beef but also are into cattle business. Through this bill, the Assam government wants to curtail their economic freedom and also impose the Brahmanical food habit in the region. The beef ban will impact the whole NE region, including Arunachal. Here in the state also, a large population consume beef and are also into the business of selling beef.

The bill makes it very difficult to transport cattle from Assam to other states. This may lead to drying up of supply of cattle from Assam, and many will be rendered unemployed.

Also, ever since Sarma became the CM, an aggressive Assam is trying to provoke tribal states like Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal by reigniting the interstate boundary disputes. In the recent boundary row between Mizoram and Assam, Sarma used social media to whip up sentiments against Mizoram with some irresponsible tweets on FB and Twitter. He is trying to portray tribals as some kind of barbaric people.

With issues like Ram mandir, Article 370, etc, done and dusted, the BJP/RSS is increasingly turning its attention to the NE region. Especially in states like Assam, Tripura and Arunachal, where the RSS has deep influence, it is starting to slowly impose its footprint. Here in Arunachal too, the attempt to Sanskritize the tribal community is going on in full swing. The constant narrative of trying to make connections between Arunachal and mainland India through imaginary Hindu mythological stories has been going on for many years. Unfortunately, instead of resisting the attempts to distort our rich tribal history and custom, our people have succumbed to these kinds of false propaganda. Many have even stopped eating beef and mithun meat, citing religious belief, after being brainwashed.

The Christian missionaries have been trying hard to anglicize the people of the state by making them hate their own traditional festivals, tribal rituals and customs. The people of the state have strongly resisted attempts to anglicize the tribal way of life. The missionaries have largely failed as many Christian believers have started attending tribal festivals and rituals, defying the dictates of the pastors. Before it is too late, it is time for the people of the state resist this attempt to Sanskritize our tribal way of life.

The constitution of India gives the freedom to choose a religion. But unique tribal cultures, traditions and histories should not be allowed to be diluted by outsiders.

Coming to the issue of three people getting arrested for morphing images of the CM and a woman, people have the right to differ ideologically and politically, but morphing pictures and sharing them on social media with the intention to hurt the reputation of a person cannot be accepted. They should understand that, besides being the CM, Pema Khandu has a family to look after, and the family suffers a lot when such heinous acts are committed. Also, think about the plight of the woman whose picture was morphed.

Democracy gives the citizens the right to fearlessly criticize those holding public chairs. But the same democracy ensures that if a morphed picture is circulated to harm the hard-earned image of any citizen, the perpetrator can be punished for such a crime.

Increasingly, the trend of morphing pictures of people with the intention to hurt them is being reported in the state. Many have been victimized, with women being the main victims. Some have silently borne the pain, while others manage to gather courage and file complaints with the police. People should try to use social media for betterment and not to indulge in such criminal acts.