Politics Behind the Demand for Mon Autonomous Council in AP

Itanagar: recently, the Mon Autonomous Region Demand Committee (MARDC) revived its old call for the creation of a Mon autonomous region within Arunachal Pradesh – and urged chief minister Pema Khandu to invite the committee to initiate a talk with the state and Central governments at the earliest.

It’s been nearly 17 years since the MARDC’s issue was first raised in the frontier state in December 2003; it is, therefore, natural that many young Arunachalees are unaware of the context that had led to such a demand.

In 2004, the state assembly, during the chief ministership of Gegong Apang, had passed a resolution in support of the demand for the autonomous region. The region was to include Tawang (with three legislators), West Kameng district (with four legislators) and Longding, Tirap and Changlang (with 12 legislators to be part of a proposed Patkai Autonomous Council). Apang’s detractors along with 18 legislators from these five (then four) districts would have toppled the government, had he not conceded to their demands for these two autonomous district councils (ADCs). The request was thereafter forwarded to the Centre.

Let’s be upfront here. Although the demand by the MARDC was veiled as an equaliser for socio-political and economic development of the Monyul or Mon areas with the rest of the frontier region, it was born out of a political tussle to exert control over the region between two powerful contemporaries of the time – the late Dorjee Khandu and former state minister late T.G. Rimpoche.

In short, this later led to the creation of the Department of Karmik and Adhyatmik Affairs (DoKAA) in the state as a special purpose vehicle and funds have been granted without a question raised or asked by the other tribes of the state. Keeping aside the technicalities related to Schedule V and VI of the constitution, no region of the state was starkly different from the other then. Today, however, the Monyul region and most parts of the eastern belt of Arunachal have leapfrogged ahead in terms of infrastructure. Then and now, the Tirap and Changlang districts are still lagging behind, alongside the carved-out district of Longding. They have themselves to blame as much as the rest of the regions in the state for misusing meagre resources.