Whenever Beijing ‘barks’, the likes of Tane Taga in Itanagar and Tenzin Chouden in Tawang rush to be among the first to sport the indelible ink on the index finger.
As Chouden puts it: “It is for the pleasure of showing the finger to big bad China.”
In 2004, China’s claims on Arunachal Pradesh prodded the state’s electorate to clock 70.21 per cent on the voting metre.
“You don’t require campaigns in Arunachal Pradesh to make people exercise their franchise. Just let Beijing bark before the polls,” she says. Sure enough, Mandate 2009 saw the turnout increase to 72 per cent.
But the pleasure comes with a pain: of demonstrating her “Indianness” to fellow citizens west of the Assam-West Bengal boundary.
Chouden was both amused and annoyed when many on the Mysore University campus asked if she was a foreigner. “Worse, some even thought I was Chinese,” she recalled.
But the China factor helped the Congress win all three seats — Tawang, Lumla and Mukto — in Tawang district unopposed.
“Since Tawang is the reason why Beijing claims Arunachal, we decided we shouldn’t fight among ourselves and let the strongest voices against Beijing win without facing the battle of the ballot,” says TG Rinpoche, former Congress MLA.
Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu, declared winner from Mukto, has been mincing no words vis-à-vis Beijing’s claim. “Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will be a part of India. We see no reason to be on the defensive whenever Beijing makes an unnecessary noise,” he says.
His opponents agree. “Whatever the size or might, no country has the right to claim any part of India or to meddle in our affairs. Certainly not Beijing, which has usurped Tibet,” says Techi Kaso, who won the Itanagar seat beating Congress rival Kipa Babu.