Territorial Nationalism: A Rising Political Ideology In Arunachal With Strands Of Nazism

It is a matter of great disdain that in present-day Arunachal Pradesh, its political class is harking and rallying for a new kind of political ideology: ‘territorial nationalism’.

Closely bordering on the Nazi ideology in pre-World War II Germany, territorial nationalism, as endorsed by some politicians in Arunachal Pradesh, is founded on a dark obsession with ethnicity, indigenousness and prejudices. Territorial nationalism reeks of strident ‘anti-foreigner’ rhetoric and denigrating ‘alien communities’ having migrant backgrounds. It relies on canny and sustained propaganda at every level – local, district, state, regional and national.

It promotes the use of student bodies and indoctrination of youths as tools to stage propaganda – such as mass rallies to create the illusion of ‘one joint tribal family’ against ‘outsider Chakmas’. Its supposed goal is to deny and strip the Chakmas of citizenship rights, by creating a legal distinction between indigenous tribal communities and non-indigeneous tribal communities. It supports the idea of ‘superior and inferior classes’ of subjects (Scheduled Tribes and Non-Scheduled Tribes categories). Furthermore, the other issue is its dogged contempt of the Indian judiciary in a nonchalant fashion.

It is extremely worrying, because Arunachal Pradesh is all of these and much more.

For the sake of preserving the integrity of the Indian republic, a good question to pause and ponder over today is whether Arunachal Pradesh is failing as a state? Is Arunachal Pradesh violating constitutional principles, which are otherwise inviolable in nature? If a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court validates that all vestiges of a democratic institution have been destroyed in the state, then, what is the potential risk for the whole country?

Whether Arunachal Pradesh is a failing state is a critical question which is better reserved for university professors and political commentators. If you are a parent like me, you would perhaps be aware of the oft-repeated old adage on parenting, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Don’t be nonplussed – actually, there is a strong connection of this old adage with the ongoing topic.

Having spent close to a year close to Itanagar, I can say that the political class in Arunachal Pradesh is probably a group of dogmatic thinkers, who recently borrowed the old adage on parenting and morphed it to make it a watchword of the State politics: “Spare the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, spoil the ethnicity and demography.” As I write, I am sure the politicians are probably raising a toast to this Act.

To corroborate this analysis further, one has to only follow some of the salvos fired by the ‘all-powerful AAPSU President’, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister (CM), and one other Union minister. All of them repeat the same sets of a words at all times: ‘the BEFR Act, 1873’, ‘the Inner Line Permit Rule’, ‘demographic imbalance, ‘dilution of tribal ethnicities and their rights over land’.

There is a moronic history behind this BEFR Act. In the days of yore, when Britain ruled India, people living in Bengal, Bombay or the Madras Presidency used to suffer under the colonial yoke, as did the people from tribal communities in the hills.

A poignant dawn arrived – people from the Bengal Presidency did away with their ignominious yoke to begin a new life. It’s 2017, but many people in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh are yet to shake off this yoke. Isn’t it tragically sad and ridiculous?

“The truth, it has the habit of revealing itself…” Hercule Poirot once said. As far as I note, the BEFR Act of 1873 was only relevant to the people of that time. It’s definitely not relevant to the people from tribal communities in the hills today, who enjoy constitutional rights and other privileges.

A version of this post was first published on the author’s blog.

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Featured image used for representative purposes only.

Featured image source: Subrata Biswas/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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