Traditional headgear with cross gifted to VIPs angers Arunachal tribe
One of the largest tribes in Arunachal Pradesh is upset with the state information commission for gifting traditional Nyishi tribal headgear with a cross to VIPs at a government function.india Updated: Oct 22, 2016 08:17 IST
One of the largest tribes in Arunachal Pradesh is upset with the state information commission for gifting traditional Nyishi tribal headgear with a cross to VIPs at a government function.
The headgear — beak and feather of a hornbill atop a cane cap — itself was a conservation issue till an international wildlife NGO helped make a fibreglass beak fashionable more than a decade ago.
The Arunachal Pradesh Information Commission (APIC) had organised the decennial celebration of the RTI Act in Itanagar on Wednesday. The event did not attract much attention until the chief guest, central information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, left the state capital the following day with a Nyishi headgear and other customary gifts.
The base of the fibreglass hornbill beak on Acharyulu’s headgear — as well as those of two other VIPs — bore a Christian cross. State chief information commissioner Joram Begi had presented the headgear.
Members of the Nyishi community that adheres to the indigenous faith criticised the APIC for “distorting” the traditional byopa (headgear).
A statement by the Nyishi Elite Society said, “We must be clear that the tradition of a community must not bear symbol of any religion or religious sects which may harm its secular fabric.”
Begi said he did not notice the cross, nor did he have them ordered. “Our staff may have obtained them without noticing the cross sign. Whatever happened was purely unintentional and we did not mean to hurt sentiments,” he said.
An Itanagar-based church spokesperson denied influencing the APIC to allegedly promote religion. However, the Nyishi Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society begged to differ. “Objects of indigenous faith and culture are surreptitiously being given religious symbolism, and they have crept into official programmes too,” Pai Dawe, a senior member of the society, said.
Christian missionary activity is not allowed in Arunachal Pradesh but the frontier state has seen a steep fall in the number of people adhering to indigenous faiths such as Donyi-Polo and Rangfra.