Friday, November 14, 2008

The Difference that matters

As a young school boy I was always fascinated by Mukut Mithi and adored him a lot. I felt or cheering him standing in the midst of the crowd emulating the scenes of documentary I used to see on popular leaders of the world. To know our leader better I always looked for opportunity to listen to his speeches. Finally I had the chance and it was during the year 2003 in Hunli when the election campaign for the newly amended panchayati raj was in full swing. I was then ignorant about politics and had mind-set of a typical VKVian. After the speech I was however disillusioned from what I could understand that development in Arunachal would come from 'ruling party'.

A year later Mithi lost power in the government and was back in the village for a strategic campaign meeting of the congress party. That was the time when some sections of educated youths from the community were actively campaigning for a political change. They
had the grievances on leaders for not doing enough for the youths. It was my second chance to listen to Mithi then. Having listened attentively I soon realized the difference in him. From what I could understand from the meeting, the other public leaders that accompanied him talked only on petty issues and sounded too bitchy. Since then, on numerous occasions I had the chance to listen to him but I vaguely remember any of his speeches since it didn't matter to me much.
The year 2007 saw rise of All Idu Mishmi Students Union (AIMSU) under the leadership of Tone Mickrow, a mechanical engineer graduate. The Dibang Multipurpose Project, India's highest dam of 288mtr was by then a controversial debate in the community. The student union disagreed with the local public leaders and the senior members of the community on Dibang dam as solution for the backwardness of the region. I was then involved in the issue reporting for the newspapers local and national. In the midst of the anti dam campaign, I accompanied the student union delegates in their meeting with Mithi who was then the Lt Governor of Puducherry. Perhaps the concerns expressed were too obvious so things didn't turn out satisfactory.

On 28th August 2008 I had another chance to be part of the meeting to discuss on Dibang Project. The Chief Minister had called all the organizations raising concerns for direct talks in Itanagar. I vividly remember when Mithi who was also part of the meeting said "Dibang Project is of national importance". However AIMSU in its earlier campaign had said, "National interest not at the cost of our community". The point of disagreement lies here which the neither side will easily undermine their own perception. The student union looks at the issue in terms of worst case scenario and is sensitive to any sort of misadventure with the community. Whereas Mithi being a political leader is committed for a larger cause. However, he acknowledged the difference in perception and approved the concerns raised.

There are matters on which nation’s interest cannot be compromised. However though dams can be literarily termed as in nation’s interest but the constitution guarantees enough space to a citizen to fight for protection of environment as well to protect the rights of the indigenous community. So a citizen that abides by the constitution cannot be working against the interest of the nation. AIMSU had strongly articulated its fear on indigeous rights being undermined by saying, “Don’t violate fundamental rights under the guise of development”.

What is needed right now is to bridge the difference in perception and to incorporate the
community interest first. The Dibang Project can be substituted by other 100 large dams planned in Arunachal Pradesh that can meet the power requirement of the country but there can never be a subtitute for the Idu Mishmi community. Here there would be no second chance. And as I write down I keep recalling my younger days.



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