Itanagar: Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Saturday suggested the indigenous people of the state, who convert to other religions to not altogether cut themselves off from their roots so as to preserve the unique cultural identity of Arunachal Pradesh.

“India is a secular country. As a born Buddhist, I have the freedom to accept and follow any other religion of my choice. Nobody can stop me. But then, I will always remain a Monpa,” Khandu said.

Monpa is one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.

The chief minister was speaking at the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Nyishi Baptist Church Council (NBCC) at its Model Village headquarters near here. The CM said Arunachal Pradesh is known for its indigenous people who have a distinct cultural identity.

“This unique identity should not be lost at any cost,” he said while appreciating the Nyishi Christians for remaining attached to their culture.

The chief minister also asserted on preserving traditional costumes, festivals, traditions and indigenous dialects no matter what faith one follows.

“If you cannot speak in Nyishi, how can you claim to be a Nyishi?” he questioned. He appealed to the Christian community leaders and elders to ponder on ways and means to preserve Nyishi culture for posterity so that it is not lost as many indigenous cultures across the world have.

“I admire you all. You have not left your culture as I can see you all donning with pride your traditional attires,” Khandu observed.

Appreciating the goals set by NBCC and mentioned by organizing chairman James Techi Tara that it will campaign against alcoholism and drug abuse, the chief minister termed it a noble venture at the right time.

“Our government is committed in its fight against drug abuse, but the government alone cannot win the battle. I welcome the commitment made by NBCC. Together we will get over the evils of alcoholism and drug abuse,” he said.

On another commitment of the NBCC to fight against money culture in elections, Khandu informed that he had been personally against money culture since the beginning.

He had earlier, especially on eve of the elections in 2019, made fervent appeals to all community-based organizations (CBOs) and religious institutions to campaign against the use of money for votes.

“The impact of religious institutions in influencing its followers is the hardest. Therefore, I again appeal to all religious institutions to create awareness against money culture in elections,” he appealed.

The chief minister expressed optimism that with the active role of CBOs and religious institutions, 2024 elections will be fought based on performance and not on money culture.

To mark the occasion, Khandu laid the foundation stone for a rehabilitation centre for the differently-abled and a convention centre to be built by NBCC. He assured to contribute to the establishment of the centre from his personal sources.

Also present on the occasion were Itanagar legislator Techi Kaso, Doimukh legislator Tana Hali Tara, Itanagar Municipal Corporation mayor Tame Phassang and speaker of the occasion Rev Dr J M Ngulkhan Pau.


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