Lawyer, artist arrested for defacing civil secretariat mural painting with ‘no dam’ message

[ Chukhu Indu ]

ITANAGAR, 27 Mar: Two people have been arrested for defacing the mural painting on the boundary wall of the state civil secretariat here with a ‘no big dam’ message and a resistance logo, and a case under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, has been registered against them at the Itanagar police station.

While the first arrest was made earlier on Sunday, the second arrest was made at around 8:30 pm, ICR SP Jimmy Chiram told The Arunachal Times.

This daily can confirm that the first arrestee is a human rights activist and a lawyer who is opposed to big dams, while the other is an artist from Lakhimpur in Assam.

The incident reportedly took place at around 2 am on Sunday. The words ‘NO MORE DAMS’ was later found written over the painting of a dam on the wall.

According to reliable sources, the arrests have been made under Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.

People from different walks of life took to social media and condemned the incident, saying that it disrespected the original artwork. Some said that there are different ways to stage a protest but not through defacing an artwork.

However, climate activist SD Loda, speaking on behalf of those who defaced the mural, said: “I am not trying to defend anyone, but will always try to justify it. It is not a crime. It is a clear-cut message that we don’t need any more dams here in Arunachal Pradesh.”

While he welcomed setting up of smaller dams, Loda said he also is opposed to the construction of big dams.

“Instead of treating them as criminals, we should consider them protestors. I am not endorsing them, but everybody has their own way to express their opinion, so that it can reach out to the government,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking on condition of anonymity, an artist who was involved in painting the original mural expressed disappointment, saying that “it has hurt the sentiments of all the artists who have put all their hard work for the past two months.”

The artist said that the mural artwork, including the dam, depicts the transition of Arunachal Pradesh over 50 years. “None of the artists are pro-dam, but the artwork is a reality that Arunachal has at present,” she said.

“It’s not about the dam, it’s about vandalising it. We want art to reach everywhere. Art is a very new thing in Arunachal Pradesh, and fellow artists doing this has really hurt us,” she added.