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Book gaffe irks Nyishis

Itanagar, Aug. 5: There seems to be no love lost between geography textbooks and the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

More than a year after the state went “missing” from the Maharashtra board’s Standard X geography textbook maps, the National Council of Educational Research and Training’s (NCERT) Class XI geography textbook has committed a blunder of constitutional proportions.

Writing about various tribes that reside in the state, a paragraph in the book says amongst the numerous tribal communities of the Arunachal Himalayas are Monpa, Daffla, Abor, Mishimi, Nishi and Nagas.

NCERT officials may be unaware but “Daffla” has long been considered a derogatory term to describe people of the Nyishi community, the largest indigenous community of the state, first by the Ahom kings and then by the British.

The term was even replaced in the Constitution with the politically correct “Nyishi” on March 19, 2008. Such is the significance of the amendment that the day is celebrated annually as “Nyishi Day”.

However, this is not the first instance of such a faux pas.

In 2010, the Shillong-based directorate of census operations had listed Daffla in its census list of the Scheduled Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. The incident had drawn the ire of the All Nyishi Students’ Union, which had written a complaint to the then chief minister Dorjee Khandu.

The latest mistake by the NCERT has evoked a similar reaction from the union.

President of the students’ union, Byabang Joram, today said he spoke to Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju who has assured him that he would look into the matter. Joram said such mistakes from the NCERT are “unacceptable”. Rijiju also said he “will get it corrected”.

The community’s highest body, Nyishi Elite Society’s president Bengia Tolum said it “should be corrected”.

Sources said Arunachal chief minister Nabam Tuki has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union human resources ministry expressing displeasure over the gaffe.

Tuki, who is from the Nyishi community, in his letter sought a rectification and said school textbooks should be constantly revised.

He is also reported to have written that proper studies about any place and its people should be conducted before they are published in such textbooks.

The mistake comes at a time when the Centre is mulling laws and ways to deal with racism that Northeast people face outside the region.

There already exists a law under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, which could land a person in jail for five years for using the word “chinki” to refer to a person from the Northeast.

No such law exists to punish those using the word “Daffla”.


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