The contentious offspring issue


The offspring issue, which shook the state a few years ago following the release of a convoluted draft by the Arunachal Pradesh government’s Social Justice & Empowerment and Tribal Affairs (SJETA) department regarding the scheduled tribe (ST) status of children born to Arunachal Pradesh schedule tribe (APST) mothers and non-APST fathers, is still a divisive matter today.

The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), which led the demonstrations against the SJETA draft, believed that the officers who illegally issued ST certificates to non-APSTs should face harsh penalties under the law. The AAPSU further emphasised that, in light of the legal restrictions entrenched under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 (on adoption of child), the ST should be determined by birth, not by adoption.

The state government released the APST Certificate Issuance Guidelines, 2022, in response to a series of protests spearheaded by the AAPSU. These guidelines include measures for cancellation, impounding, or revocation of ST certificates issued to individuals who are not eligible. According to the recommendations, the body issuing the document may cancel, impound, or revoke the ST certificate if it is satisfied that any person received the certificate by providing false information, misrepresenting any fact, or suppressing any material information.

Since the issue of offspring is so widespread and ingrained in our society, it remains complex even after several protests and state government directives. In our state, it has long been practiced to give the surnames of APST mothers who marry non-indigenous, putting our indigenous population’s future in jeopardy. Research may reveal that there is at least one person in every Arunachal village who is using fraudulent means to obtain an APST certificate in order to benefit from the government.

Thus, we can presume that the state government’s directions are laws without really giving the district, subdivision and circle heads concerned the authority to act comprehensively in this respect. To resolve this divisive problem, more teeth are required at the grassroots level, provided it does not create division and enmity within the society.

Furthermore, our APST sisters ought to understand that although Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the freedom to marry, this right shouldn’t conflict with the rights of tribal people or the state’s future. She should have the courage to name the kids after their father if she is brave enough to select her own life partner.

Moreover, we (tribal) are not allowed to marry someone with the same last name or clan in our tribal system, especially in the Tani tribes of the state. Thus, having illicit relationships (called bwrmv rwnam in Galo) with someone who shares the same surname is the only way that the children of male and female siblings could have the same surnames (if we call a spade a spade).

Our people name their nephews and nieces who are born via the union of APST sisters/daughters and non-tribal men out of affection; however, this practice not only goes against our tribal customs and traditions but also puts our state’s fragile and innocent indigenous people at risk. Therefore, as long as we do not establish a robust social structure to protect and elevate our still-fragile tribal populace, simply altering laws by the government will not be enough.

Yiri  Kamcham,


Lower Siang