By Dr KK Paul
Twenty-five years ago, in 1997, when I was posted to Arunachal Pradesh, the state was comparatively less developed and considered to be a hard area posting.
As I arrived at Itanagar late in the evening and just a day before the next morning’s ceremonial parade for Statehood Day, the assumption of charge and certain other formalities had to be completed in a great rush. Later, when I reached the designated residence of the Chief of Police, I was in for a surprise and had the first experience of the hardness of the area, but this was in respect of only water. The normal tap water instead of washing was making my hands stickier and giving a soapy feeling till I found some bottled water in the bathroom, which redeemed the situation. I was informed that water had to be made potable with alum treatment followed by boiling, which was the practiced norm. While, in Delhi, one takes certain basic necessities for granted but in remote areas of Arunachal they appear almost to be a luxury, but one managed.
Arunachal Pradesh has a large number of tribal communities out of which one can count twenty five as the major tribes. The ever smiling and usually friendly nature of the tribals helped develop community relations very quickly, particularly during the tours. The tribals are generally self-sufficient and a very happy community. They have their cultural festivals where a lot of singing, dancing and feasting goes on for three-four days at a stretch. It came as a surprise to see that most of the tribals and especially youngsters were quite good at singing popular Hindi film songs. At Itanagar, Mopin and Solung, both harvest festivals were celebrated with a lot of gusto and fanfare. Mopin in April usually coincided with Baisakhi, and Solung was observed in October for the harvest of Kharif and before the sowing of the next crop.
For one Mopin function, there was considerable excitement as the famous singer Usha Uthup had been invited and, to the surprise of all, she sang in the local dialect. As the evening progressed, there was a lot of dancing, with the Chief Minister of the state in the ceremonial head gear taking the lead, both in singing as well as dancing on stage.
At another function hosted at my official residence, the Home Minister was the Chief Guest, other invitees being senior bureaucrats and police officers. After the dinner, as we were enjoying the police band, there was a general talk of someone volunteering to chip in with a song. I had become aware that our Home Minister was a hugely talented person and, as such, I very hesitatingly requested him. To our surprise his response was with a smile and instantaneous. While taking out a small diary from his pocket, he mentioned that he was expecting such a request and sang to his heart’s content.
This Home Minister went on to become the Chief Minister of Arunachal, an MP and LG of a Union Territory.
(Krishan Kant Paul is a former IPS officer, who served as the Commissioner of Police, Delhi from February 2004 to July 2007. Following his retirement from civil services, he served as Governor of Meghalaya, Manipur and finally Uttarakhand. He also held the charge as Governor of Mizoram and Nagaland briefly, as an additional charge during this period).