Takam Sanjoy seemed like the MP least likely to make any news on day one of the 15th Lok Sabha. But he did. In fact, he landed in a controversy — head first.
The MP from Arunachal Pradesh West, a constituency China wants, sat through Monday's session sporting a traditional headgear of the state’s Nyishi tribe, to which he belongs. Many of his fellow MPs admired the piece embellished with a hornbill beak and feather.
But BJP parliamentarian and animal activist Maneka Gandhi wasn’t impressed and she reminded Sanjoy the hat was illegal. He later clarified the beak was artificial but kept mum about the feather.
A day later, with pictures of the MP in his headgear making it to most newspapers, animal rights activists and conservationists are aghast at the “display of animal body parts” in Parliament.
“I am not aware if the display of rare wildlife body parts has debuted with Sanjoy, but we expect the people in power to lead the way in dissuading such practices,” Anuradha Sawhney of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told HT from Pune.
“Tradition cannot be an excuse for such blatant displays; hiding behind tradition is the worst form of offence for parliamentarians...” she added.
The declining population of hornbills — less than 500 are estimated to remain in the hills of Arunachal — had made the government ban hunting of the bird. Wearing headgears embellished with the bird’s beak was also made illegal.
But these measures have failed to stop the headgear fetish among the Nyishis and other tribes.
The Wildlife Trust of India subsequently introduced artificial fibre glass beaks to save the bird from extinction. Sanjoy isn’t the only politician to make the green brigade see red. President Pratibha Patil and Rahul Gandhi had irked them during recent trips to the Northeast.
In Tawang last month, the President had donned a cap made from the fur of a rare flying squirrel. “Organizers claimed it was made from yak hide but we are not convinced,” said animal rights activist Azam Siddiqui.
Rahul had sported a headgear with peacock feathers during his election campaign in Manipur.