Arunachal Pradesh’s high court granted bail on Tuesday to an Assam-based graffiti artist and an Itanagar-based lawyer-activist who was detained on Sunday for reportedly desecrating the boundary wall of the state secretariat in Itanagar with an anti-dam message.
Judicial Magistrate First Class Tenzin Metho granted bail to artist Neelim Mahanta and lawyer Ebo Mili, ordering them to repaint the vandalized portion of the wall and restore it to its original form within 10 days.
Mahanta and Mili allegedly wrote “No More Dams” in black on the wall and drew a fist inside a circle around a dam mural.
They face charges under Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act of 1984, which is not bailable. Conviction carries a sentence of six months to five years in prison.
According to Jimmy Chiram, superintendent of police in Itanagar, the accused were detained on Monday for desecrating the wall of the state secretariat building in Itanagar, known as the Wall of Harmony, with an anti-dam message.
Suman Saha, the graffiti artist friend of Mahanta’s, told The Telegraph that the graffiti artist was released around 6 p.m. and quickly returned to his home in Lakhimpur.
A group from Lakhimpur, including members of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), which had protested for Mahanta’s unconditional release on Monday and Tuesday, was waiting for the artist at Harmati, about an hour’s drive from Itanagar.
The AJYCP’s assistant general secretary, Saurabh Das, stated that now that Mahanta has been released, they will discontinue their road blockade agitation as of Wednesday.
On the same day, Arunachal Pradesh government spokesperson Bamang Felix issued a press statement regarding the defacement of the “Wall of Harmony” by Mahanta and Mili, claiming that the arrests are unrelated to any anti-dam or other protest and that the government “firmly” believes in “freedom of expression” and the right of any citizen to dissent or protest.
Arunachal Pradesh has a distinct history and a rich cultural and natural heritage. It was decided to translate this richness into holistic public art projects, beginning with the “Wall of Harmony” in Itanagar to commemorate Arunachal Pradesh’s 50th formation day.
By destroying or damaging the wall, the two individuals not only intruded on public property but also harmed the feelings of all Arunachalees, who take great pride in their glorious past, according to Felix.
Both Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have BJP-led governments.