Ramblings from Arunachal

Arunachal Pradesh has been really exciting till now. I have got internet access after a long time, and decided to write about it. It seems to be one of the more peaceful of the states here in the
north-east. The transition from the plains of Assam to the hills of Arunachal is quite drastic if one travels on road. The demarcation between these two states is both physiographic and ethnic. While Assam suffers from very regular bandhs, strikes and ‘chakka jaams’, Arunachal is mostly peaceful. However, most of travel between towns in Arunachal happens through Assam and all strikes there have an effect on movement here. Most of the roads that have been constructed are of excellet quality, having been constructed by the Border Roads Organisation. Also, the districts on China border are being connected by good roads for strategic reasons.

People here strike one as very fiercely independent. Tribal identity is very strong, and people are proud of their tribe and community. The entry of outsiders is allowed only after obtaining at Inner line permit. This can be obtained at Guwahati and the document is to be produced while entering Arunachal. It feels almost like crossing a border. I guess Nepal must be easier to get into. However, this one concept has probably preserved the identity and culture and has limited interventions from outside. At the same time however, there is no private player in any sector – telecom, insurance, banking – and this slows down everything here.

But, what disturbs me most is the emptiness of the forests here. Thick verdant forests clothe the hills…..on entering them, one is hit by their emptiness. Also, most of what is seen outside of protected areas is secondary growth of bamboo and banana. Of course, there are still large stretches of ‘pristine’ jungle at many places. But, seeing jhum to such a large extent is definitely disturbing to an outsider.

Since reports from this part of the country are few, I thought I will share whatever little I have been seeing. I have tried to make up for the low number of bird sightings by sharing some info about the places!

I saw my first Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemidaisicus) Sangram in Kurung Kumey district. This district is a new one and gets its name from two large rivers, Kurung and Kumey. The district borders China, and one can reach the nearest Chinese village by 3 days walk from the district
HQ of Koloriang. The PHC at Sangram which I visited is located on the tip of a cliff overlooking the valley of the river Kurung. The Buzzard was gliding above the hills on the other side of the river, and ‘hovered’ for a few seconds, much like a Kestrel.

Grey-cheeked Warblers (Siecircus poliogenys) were quite a few around the PHC.

I have seen countless hornbills till now – on people’s heads!! The Nyishi tribal elders wear a hat which is decorated with the ‘casque’ of the hornbill. It even has a feather or two – either of hornbills or the racquets of the racquet tailed drongo. Almost all the tribals carry a ‘dao’. It is kept in a bamboo case, which is hung around the trunk in a belt made of bear hide. Youth carrying air guns for hunting were also frequently seen.

Forktails (Slaty backed and black backed) and Blue whistling thrushes were common near hill streams.

On the whole, I am travelling a lot. I have visited 2 districts. I am leaving for Jenging which is in Upper Siang district and within Mouling WLS and will proceed to Roing in Lower Dibang Valley district.

Hope I will be able to write from Roing……


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