The northeastern border state of Arunachal Pradesh whose major population comprises of local tribes have been infuriated by violence due to the decision of the state government to give permanent resident status to some of the tribes, fulfilling the election promise.
Many ethnic tribes have longed that permanent residentship be given to them. But the decision did not go well with the indigenous tribes of Arunachal Pradesh resulting in violent protests across the state.
The army had to be called in by Itanagar district administration so as to assist in controlling law and order situation which worsened due to an increase in the number of protests. Two people were killed and several others injured in protests outside the CM’s residence over Arunachal government’s proposal to grant permanent residence certificate (PRC) to six non-tribal communities.
The agitators also set ablaze the private residence of the state’s deputy chief minister and ransacked the office of the deputy commissioner in the capital yesterday. Internet services had been suspended in Itanagar and Naharlagun as an outcome.
As the protest grew manifold, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu issued a statement saying that “the controversy over issuing Permanent Residency Certificates (PRC) is closed, requesting protesters not to hold dharna and cooperate with the government.”
“On the night of February 22, I had clarified through media and social media that government won’t hold further discussions over this. Today also, an order has been issued via Chief Secretary that we won’t take up PRC matter,” Khandu affirmed that no discussion on PRC to take place.
Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu on Permanent Residence Certificate matter: I would like to appeal to all those protesting that their demand had already been accepted by govt on 22nd itself. PRC issue is closed. I request them not to hold protests & dharna and cooperate with govt pic.twitter.com/EJ0yGeSugg
— ANI (@ANI) February 25, 2019
Khandu further said that he had given directives over the need for a detailed investigation and added that a commissioner-level investigating committee was formed to probe into the incidents of violence in the state.
Khandu reached out to those protesting, saying, “I would like to appeal to all those protesting that their demand had already been accepted by govt on 22nd itself. PRC issue is closed. I request them not to hold protests and dharna and cooperate with the government.”
What is permanent resident certificate?
A permanent resident certificate is a legal document issued to Indian citizens that serve as evidence of residence and is required to be submitted as residential proof for official purpose.
The recent incidents of violence are in the wake of the state government’s consideration of issuing the certificate to non-APSTs ( non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes) communities living in Namsai and Changlang districts and to Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar. There is resentment among several community-based groups and organisations in the state, who feel the rights and interests of indigenous people will be compromised if the proposal is implemented.
The BJP government of the state headed by Prema Khandu was considering issuing the certificate to the six non-APSTs communities including Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Mishings. Most of these communities are recognised as Scheduled Tribes, not in AP, but, in neighbouring Assam.
A Joint High Power Committee (JHPC), after holding discussions with the stakeholders, recommended granting PRC to the six communities, who are not natives of Arunachal Pradesh but have been living in Namsai and Changlang districts for decades.
The recommendation of JHPC was supposed to be tabled in the Assembly on Saturday for discussion. However, in the wake of agitations by various groups, it was not tabled as the Speaker adjourned the House sine die.
Why are people in Arunachal protesting against PRC?
There is resentment among several community-based groups and organisations in Arunachal Pradesh, who feel the rights and interests of indigenous people will be compromised if the proposal is implemented.
As more and more local youth joined the protest against the PRC for non-indigenous tribes, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to the CM and appealed to the people to maintain peace in the state.
HM Shri @rajnathsingh spoke to the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Shri @PemaKhanduBJP over the phone and discussed the prevailing situation & ongoing protest in certain parts of the state. HM has urged the people to remain calm and maintain peace in the state.
— गृहमंत्री कार्यालय, HMO India (@HMOIndia) February 23, 2019
Arunachal Pradesh tribes
The border state of Arunachal Pradesh has a total population of roughly 1.4 million (as of 2011) on amounting to a population density of about 17 pop./km2. Much of Arunachal Pradesh is forested. The “indigenous groups” account for about two-thirds of the population, while immigrants, mostly of Bengali/ Hindi.
The North Eastern part of India is mired in ethnic conflict. Such conflicts have not only disturbed the peace and tranquillity in the region but have also led to brutal atrocities and violence upon innocent people. Such violence has led to the loss of lives of innumerable people and destruction of property and forests.
Although Arunachal has 26 major tribes, there are more than 100 sub-tribes.
Each tribe has a different dialect and traditions which becomes the root cause of the ethnic clashes. Sometimes, the conflicts are politically driven as after the death of CM Dorjee Khandu in a helicopter accident in 2011 the Nishi community which is the largest tribe in Arunachal Pradesh wanted a Nishi CM which lead to incidents of violence and attacks on people of other tribes. The situation became normal once Nabum Tuki who is a Nishi was made the CM.
The local groups always raise their voice against the government’s decision to settle any ethnic group in the state permanently, as happened when the centre wanted to give permanent resident status to Chakmas. Most of the other tribal groups believe the decision of Central Government as violation of the constitutional safeguards provided to the indigenous people of the state.
Having a residential status gives a much-needed identity to a tribe which is lost in determining its whereabouts. However, in notifying the tribes, the indigenous tribes have to be kept aloof of any such changes that are going to affect them. It has to be the responsibility of the government to keep in mind the local sentiments due to their fear of loss.
The issues have remained unresolved with no tangible solution in sight. Against such diversified social, political and economic background, some ethnic groups in Arunachal Pradesh and in the entire north-east remain quite remain outside the purview of state sovereign, without any hope of being able to determine their future ethnic identity.