Arunachal Pradesh

Itanagar: The Arunachal Pradesh government on Tuesday clarified that the recent arrests of two persons by the Itanagar police for allegedly defacing an artwork on the boundary wall of the civil secretariat here has “nothing to do with the anti-dam protest”.

“The Government of Arunachal Pradesh seeks to put on record that the arrests do not pertain to any kind of anti-dam or any other protest. We firmly believe in ‘Freedom of Expression’ and the right to dissent or protest by any citizen according to their rightful conscience within the framework of law,” home minister and government spokesperson Bamang Felix said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Itanagar police had on Sunday arrested Nilim Mahanta, an Assam-based graffiti artist, and advocate Ebo Mili for defacing a certain portion of the mural on the civil secretariat wall by writing anti-dam slogans.

A case under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, was registered against the duo at the Itanagar police station.

The arrests of Nilim and Mili have since evoked mixed reactions across the state and the country with many opposing the act and several supporting the duo. Felix, however, said the reactions in social as well as mainstream media can be attributed mostly to ‘misinformation’.

Meanwhile, Nilim and Mili were granted bail by the district and sessions court here on Tuesday.

“In the present case, it must be understood that the arrests made are not of any protester but two individuals who have defaced a public property, and this calls for legal action under relevant sections of the IPC and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 Act,” he said. 

The home minister said the ‘Wall of Harmony’ which runs along the national highway and through the heart of the state capital was approved and commissioned by the government to commemorate ‘50 Years of Arunachal Pradesh’ through public art.

“Arunachal Pradesh has a unique history and hosts an incredible heritage both cultural and natural. It was decided to translate this richness into holistic public art projects initiating with “Wall of Harmony’ at the state civil secretariat boundary wall commemorating the 50th Formation Day of Arunachal Pradesh. The design is based on the theme of ‘Celebrating Past and Nurturing Future’ and the wall honors the major milestones achieved over the span of 50 years since its formation. The ‘Wall of Harmony’ not only became a center of attraction but also a proud depiction of the glorious history of Arunachal Pradesh since its formation to till date,” Felix said.

The home minister said “Nilim and Mili have, by their act of defacing the wall, not only encroached into public property but also hurt the sentiments of all Arunachalees, who take much pride in their glorious past”.

“While the government of Arunachal Pradesh has no issues with the ‘intent’ of the two individuals, it cannot be lenient to any act that borders around ‘crime’ that also goes against the popular sentiments of its people. As far as the present case goes, the matter is before the court and the government will abide by its decision,” Felix said.

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