This news has been doing the rounds so much these days, that I had to write about it sooner or later. Now, for the uninitiated: Arunachal Pradesh is a state in the easternmost part of India (Arunachal literally means the land of the rising sun; the state is named thus because it is where the sun rises first in India), a state that had temporarily been occupied by China during the border conflict of 1962. Today, it is a part of the Indian nation, and yet, China suddenly seems to have become fond of what once was and now isn’t. Why is it a part of India? Well, here we go.
In the war conflict of 1962, China achieved military superiority, and there is no doubt about that. They annexed what was rightly theirs (the Aksai Chin) and what wasn’t (Arunachal). During the conflict, both sides faced immense logistical difficulties, Aksai Chin being a freezing salt desert at 5000m above sea level, and Arunachal being in the Himalayas, with dramatic peaks towering over 7000m. Soon after the occupation, China simply vacated Arunachal and shifted to its pre-war positions in the east, for reasons unexplained to us common people in the Indian heartland. Whatever the reasons might be, Arunachal has basically been Indian territory excepting that short period when China had occupied it. And thus that stands today.
Leaving aside the military reasons, Arunachal is a state which is culturally a part of India. Though ignored at first, the beauty of the area couldn’t remain shrouded for long. The state has not only seen an increasing number of tourists from the rest of India, but also seen rising is the number of immigrants who have settled down, finding the peace, tranquility and scenic beauty too hard to leave behind. And there are others from the economically deprived classes, who went to Arunachal in search of a steady source of sustenance, and can now be found running shops or roadside eateries. It is safe to say that Arunachal has the essence of all other states of India: indigenous culture, indigenous people, and among it all, a cultural diversity which mingles into the uniqueness of this wonderful land.
The third reason is my personal favourite. China is an autocracy. It might be part of the Security Council, it might be ages ahead of us economically, but it is ruled by a select bunch of people. Poles apart is India, a democracy, where people at least can choose who rules them. We’ve had elections in Arunachal recently, and 70% of the population turned up to cast their vote, far higher than the average turnout during polls in other states. This, more than anything, is proof that the people of Arunachal identify with India, that they are willing to live on in a free world, that they are willing to be called Indian. And maybe this is proof that they have the same dream for India as the great Rabindranath Tagore had:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world is not broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake