In 2007, when Mano Tayeng married a second time, he sowed the seeds of a bitter inter-state dispute. An officer with a rural development agency in Arunachal Pradesh (AP), Tayeng belongs to the state’s Adi tribe, while the colleague he married, Puma Megar, is from the Nyishi tribe.
A decade ago, Tayeng had married Julie Partin, a Mishing tribal from Assam. With polygamy and polyandry a common practice in most AP tribes, Tayeng’s second marriage barely caused a ripple. However, Partin’s health began to deteriorate after her husband remarried, and, on 8 August this year, she died. Partin’s kin say that Tayeng started showering all his attention—and gifts—on Megar. Tayeng is also said to have started neglecting Partin and treating her badly after he brought Megar home. After more than two years of neglect, Partin returned to her maternal home in Assam earlier in 2010.
A few days after her death, Partin’s kin journeyed to Roing to inform Tayeng and request him to attend the funeral. But Megar and her relatives allegedly assaulted them and detained Partin’s younger sister Chandrika. According to Nyishi customs, a dead person’s family has to seek permission to enter someone else’s home, and these visits are accompanied by mandatory rituals. Since no such permission was sought by Partin’s relatives, Megar’s kin felt they were justified in detaining Chandrika. Their stand was upheld by tribal elders, who set Rs 1 lakh and two bisons as the price for Chandrika’s release.
The Partins promised to pay up and Chandrika was released. But when the money and livestock did not materialise for a fortnight, Megar’s family took the slight seriously. On 28 August, they crossed state lines and attacked the Partins in Assam, damaging their home and belongings. The Assam police arrested six of them. Tayeng crossed over on 30 August to resolve the dispute, but was arrested by the Assam police on charges of polygamy.
The Arunachal government officer’s arrest has now triggered a row between these two Northeastern states. Arunachal Home Minister Tako Dabi has taken up the matter with Assam’s acting Chief Minister Bhumidhar Barman. The matter has yet to be resolved.