ARUNACHAL PRADESH Arunachal Pradesh, "Dawn's Province," is the most northeasterly and most sparsely populated state in India, containing just over 1 million people. Carved out of Assam, it is nearly 84,000 square miles (about 217,500 sq. km); it borders Assam and has an international border with Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. The state is mountainous, with the Himalayas along its northern border, and mountain ranges running north-south, creating five river valleys: the Kameng, Subansiri, Lohit, Tirap, and the Siang, containing the mightiest river. With the heaviest rainfall in India, the state is hot and humid, with temperatures as high as 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42°C) in the summer in the valleys but considerably cooler in the higher altitudes.
Arunachal Pradesh is populated by some twenty main tribes, divided into numerous subtribes mainly of Mongoloid and Tibeto-Burmese stock. The principal tribes are the Adi, Nishi, Apatani, Tagin, Misaim, Monpa, Aka, Nocte, Wancho, Singpho, Tangsha, Khampti, Padma, Miris, and Sherdukpen, speaking over twenty dialects, fourteen of which are used as the medium of instruction at the elementary school level. The tribes are patriarchal and the inheritance is based on primogeniture. The tribes follow endogamy and the clans are exogamous. Polygamy is also practiced. Many of the tribes are Buddhist, although animism is widely practiced; some practice Vaishnavism, and Christianity is spreading. The tribes practice shifting slash-and-burn cultivation, known as jhuming. Rice is the main crop. With few roads and little arable land, about 95 percent of the people live on subsistence farming in rural areas, although the state is a food deficit area. The literacy rate is just over 50 percent.
References to the state are found in the Mahābhārata and Kalika Purāṇa, although little is known of its early history. In 1826 the British took control of the Brahmaputra Valley as a consequence of the Treaty of Yanabo with Burma (present-day Myanmar), and in 1838 absorbed the area, appointing an agent to exercise a semblance of control. Recognizing the special character of tribal culture and the backwardness of the area, the British in 1874 enacted the Scheduled District Act and in 1880 the Assam Frontier Tract Regulation. They created the North-East Frontier Agency in 1913, but its control remained very limited. The following year, the 550-mile (885 km) border with Tibet was created as the McMahon Line, an international border that was never recognized by China. Until the eve of World War II, the area was declared off-limits to visitors.
Under India's Constitution, adopted 26 January 1950, the area remained autonomous under district councils. In 1954 the area became the North-East Frontier Area under the governor of Assam. In 1962 China invaded India through the state, and New Delhi realized how vulnerable it was to attack from the north. Accordingly, India absorbed Arunachal as a union territory on 20 January 1972, and it was renamed Arunachal Pradesh. An elected legislative assembly was constituted, and the first general election was held on 3 January 1980. On 20 February 1987 it became the twenty-fourth state of the Indian union. Divided into sixteen districts, the capital is Itanagar.
Roger D. Long
See alsoChina, Relations with
Dutta, S., ed. Studies in the History, Economy, and Culture of Arunachal Pradesh. Delhi: Himalayan Publishers, 1997.
Singh, Chandrika. Emergence of Arunachal Pradesh as a State. Delhi: Mittal Publications, 1989.