Why does the “Rukmini is from Arunachal Pradesh” myth persist?
"The Idu Mishmi community has expressed shock over the events at Porbandar"
April 2, 2018
The Madhavpur mela held in Porbandar, Gujarat was not without the usual unholy nexus of religion, politics, and pseudo-history. The event titled "Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat" saw the Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur in attendance , along with the Union Minister of State for Home. A team from Arunachal Pradesh also participated in the event, the team was of course from the Idu Mishmi community. At the event, the Idu Mishmi cultural team was shocked when comments were made regarding the story of Krishna and Rukmini, particularly that Rukmini was from the Idu Mishmi community . The event was probably aimed at China who claims the entirety of Arunachal Pradesh except for the Naga-inhabited areas. One article even went so far as to assert that the story features in the Idu Mishmi folklore. However, Arunachal Times tells a different story .
The story according to the article can trace its existence to around the 1970’s from the Government Higher Secondary School in Roing. The students of this school performed "Rukmini Haran" dances in the 70’s. The Igus (Idu Mishmi shamans) have no story regarding the existence of Rukmini, let alone Krishna. The reason cited for this rather recent mythological concoction was to counter the growing influence of Christian missionaries in Arunachal Pradesh. That the entire myth came from a Government School points towards the unease that the government must have felt seeing the rage of the Naga and Mizo insurgencies which were largely held strong by Christianity.
However, distorting tribal folklore in the name of national integration is not a new phenomenon in Arunachal Pradesh. Gyaker Sinyi a popular lake hangout near Itanagar is known now as "Ganga Lake". The Shidi village in Changlang has been renamed Gandhigram. When a phallic stone structure was found in Ziro, it was almost immediately called a "Shivling" and has now become a pilgrimage destination. Many Apatanis who inhabit Ziro have been ‘convinced’ to become Hindus since the existence of the "Shivling" shows that they are actually Hindus. Even the practice of Donyi Polo – the traditional belief system of the Nyishi community based on animism and shamanism – has been perverted. Traditionally there was no designated place of worship, worship was conducted outdoors. Now, Donyi Polo "mandirs" have been erected, and bhajans created. Off the record, a person with some experience in Arunachal Pradesh mentioned that the creation of the temples and bhajans was the work of some junior bureaucrats in collaboration with some Donyi Polo shamans.
These actions raise too many questions. Firstly, why would so many people go out of their way to distort the history of Arunachal Pradesh – which until attaining its Sanskrit name was referred to as the Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA)? Secondly, why should "national integration" weigh so heavily on the minds of so many people when India has been in existence for over six decades? Finally, is India not confident of its international legal position over Arunachal Pradesh? The memory of 1962, the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report, and the revelations by Maxwell certainly seem to rattle those in the Union Government and the security establishment.
First published in Newsclick.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.