Around the time when protests against the killing of Arunachalese student Nido Tania were making it to the front pages of dailies, another piece of news from the Northeastern state went largely unnoticed. It is a development that should have us just as worried as the racist assault on Tania. In an event that accentuates the perilous state of press freedom in Arunachal Pradesh, readers had to do without any papers for five days beginning February 14. The presses resumed rolling only when the CM, Nabam Tuki, stepped in and promised to do more to protect the independence of the media.
Trouble began when the deputy commissioner of Capital Complex in Itanagar, Mige Kamki, allowed representatives from the Students Union Movement of Arunachal (SUMA) to protest near the office of The Arunachal Times. The dispute arose after SUMA members expressed unhappiness about not being given enough credit for having worked to have a recent economic blockade that was put in place in Assam against Arunachal Pradesh lifted. This followed clashes in January that left 11 persons dead over an ‘encroachment’ dispute. The Arunachal Press Club, on the other hand, put out a release accusing SUMA members of spreading “highly provocative stories” against the media and “inciting people against the press”.