History inspires Arunachal Pradesh villagers to shun polls

Sissen – a remote village in what is now known as Arunachal Pradesh – witnessed an uprising in March 1911, when a tribal chieftain led his men to kill an official of the British Government to avenge atrocities the colonial rulers carried out on him and his people.

Over a century later, Sissen has revolted again, this time against the officialdom of independent India. The villagers are angry, because the tiny hamlet is still almost as remote and disconnected from the rest of the country as it was when the British left India in 1947.

And they registered their protest this month by not being a part of the festival of democracy being celebrated across the country.

None of the 135 voters of Sissen took part in the parliamentary and Assembly polls that took place simultaneously in Arunachal Pradesh on April 9 last. A rickety suspension bridge over the river Siang is still the only link between the village and the nearest point accessible by road.

Villagers have to depend on it to get to the right bank of Siang and access market, hospitals or other basic facilities.   The angry villagers snapped the bridge to prevent the poll officials from entering the village.

Officials of the district administration tried to persuade the villagers, who remained firm on their “no-road-no-vote” stand. The election officials finally managed to reach the village to conduct a re-poll on Saturday. They had to return disappointed.

“They (the villagers) did not come to cast votes. They are demanding road connectivity to their village and submitted a memorandum, which we have forwarded to the Chief Secretary (of Arunachal Government),” Deputy Commissioner of East Siang district, Nidhi Srivastava, told Deccan Herald over phone from Pasighat.

Sissen still proudly recalls March 31, 1911, the day when Jamoh, a chieftain of Adi (formerly known as Abor) tribe, led his warriors to attack a camp set up in the village by the visiting British officials.

British Raj responded with a brutal retaliatory campaign and sent over 200 soldiers on what later came to be known as “Abor Expedition”. The villages were burnt and men and women indiscriminately tortured and killed till the manhunt ended with the arrest of Jamoh, who was sent to Cellular Jail in Andaman to spend the rest of his life.

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