ITANAGAR, March 28 (PTI): A graffiti artist who was among the two persons arrested in Arunachal Pradesh for allegedly defacing an artwork on the boundary wall of the civil secretariat has found support in a youth organisation that has threatened to block roads for an indefinite period in protest.
Nilim Mahanta, an artist-cum-activist, was held in North Lakhimpur district in Assam, while another person, advocate E Mili, was apprehended from Roing in Lower Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday night.
They have been accused of defacing a portion of a mural on the civil secretariat wall, depicting art and culture of the tribal community, by drawing a resistance logo on it and writing ‘No More Dams’ with black paint, the Capital Region superintendent of police in Arunachal Pradesh, Jimmy Chiram said.
A case under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 has been registered against them at the Itanagar police station, the SP said.
Several activists and locals had been opposing the Dibang multipurpose project in Arunachal Pradesh over issues ranging from displacement and deforestation to loss of community land.
Taking exception to the police action, the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad (AJYCP) on Monday announced that it would stage an indefinite road blockade if Mahanta is not released within 12 hours.
“This fascist government now fears everyone. They fear democratic protests, power of the pen, free speech and artists… they are trying to suppress people due to that fear,” AJYCP general secretary Palash Changmai said on his Facebook page.
The outfit held a protest against the arrest in North Lakhimpur town on Monday.
“Nilim has always raised his voice against any injustice through his paintings. If he is not released within the next 12 hours, we will start an indefinite road blockade against Arunachal Pradesh,” the outfits’ central committee assistant general secretary Saurav Das said.
The artist’s mother, Swargojyoti Goswami, told PTI that her son was invited to Itanagar a few days ago by the anti-dam activists of the Dibang Multipurpose Project, which is a hydropower-cum-flood moderation scheme proposed on Dibang River.
“Nilim was paid an honorarium by the anti-big dam activists of Arunachal Pradesh for a wall painting. We don’t know what happened there, but want our son home immediately,” she said.
Opposition Raijor Dal president and Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi condemned the arrest of Mahanta by the Arunachal Pradesh government.
“The police action is undemocratic and fascist. We demand that the artist be released and charges against him be removed,” he told reporters outside Assam Assembly.
Echoing him, Assam Jatiya Parishad president Lurinjyoti Gogoi said the action on the part of the Arunachal Pradesh Police was ‘vindictive, immoral and undemocratic’.
“People have the right to protest in a democracy and no power hungry government can snatch this right,” he added.