Arunachal court grants bail to Assam graffiti artist, aide in mural defacement case
Itanagar, March 29 (PTI): A local court on Tuesday granted bail to a graffiti artist from Assam and his associate, who were arrested for allegedly defacing a mural on the boundary wall of the civil secretariat here, by writing anti-dam slogans.
Granting bail to Nilim Nayan Mahanta, the graffiti artist and activist, and advocate Ebo Mili, Judicial Magistrate First Class Tenzin Metho directed them to repaint the portion of the wall which was defaced and bring it back to how it was earlier within 10 days from the date of the order.
They were granted the relief on furnishing a bail bond of Rs 3,000 each.
A couple of organisations in Assam’s Lakhimpur district on Tuesday burnt the effigy of Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu for arresting Mahanta and threatened to block all the roads leading to the neighbouring state if the graffiti artist is not released immediately.
Mahanta was arrested from North Lakhimpur town in Assam while Mili was picked up from Roing in Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday night on the charge of defacing a portion of a mural depicting art and culture of the tribal community by writing No More Dams’.
Activists in the northeastern state are against the construction of big dams on grounds that they will flood fertile lands, destroy flora and fauna, and displace people.
The artwork, Wall of Harmony’, was done on the occasion of the golden jubilee celebrations of the state.
A case under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 has been registered against them at the Itanagar police station.
As the authorities faced criticism for the move from various quarters, Home Minister Bamang Felix said the arrests were made for defacing public property and not for any 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, Felix, who is also the government spokesperson, said in a statement.
Besides defacing public property, the two accused hurt the sentiments of all Arunachalees who take pride in their glorious past, he said.
The aim of the mural is to celebrate the pride of Arunachal and its people in a very contemporary manner. It narrates the story of the state focusing on its main features and milestones and on its diverse tribes living in harmony, our crafts, rich heritage of flora and fauna, iconography and monuments treated in a chronological manner,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, peasant body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and its sister organisation Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti on Tuesday held protests at Banderdewa town in Lakhimpur district near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border against the arrest of Mahanta.
The two organisations threatened that they will block all the roads leading to Arunachal Pradesh if Mahanta is not released.
The protesters were detained by police for obstructing traffic and were released later, an official said.
On Monday, the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad had also said that an indefinite road blockade against Arunachal Pradesh would begin if the Assam-based artist is not released.
The artist’s mother Swargojyoti Goswami had told PTI that her son was invited to Itanagar a few days ago by anti-dam activists who are opposed to the Dibang Multipurpose Project, a hydropower-cum-flood moderation scheme proposed on the Dibang river in Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh.