Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday assured that the state government is committed to support preservation of indigenous culture, which he said is identity of Arunachal Pradesh and its pride.
Speaking at the inaugural function of the 15-day Seminar-cum-Workshop of Priesthood at Itanagar at the Directorate of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) office premises, Khandu said DIA was established with the sole purpose of preserving and promoting culture and heritage of the indigenous communities of the state.
“Our culture is our roots. If roots are not protected and made stronger, the tree above will not survive. Hence, for our communities to survive, culture has to be preserved,” he pointed.
Lauding the department for organizing the workshop, Khandu said the institution of priesthood is an integral part of indigenous culture and expressed concern over its dwindling existence.
“For centuries, we depended on our local priests for every ritual – be it at birth, death, sickness, disasters or even construction of house. Every auspicious occasion revolved around the priests. I commend the department for organizing this seminar-cum-workshop and believe that it would play a pivotal role in reviving this very important institution,” he said.
One of the major reasons for the dwindling of priesthood, Khandu observed, is lesser use of native languages.
“Without a written script, almost all our native languages are only spoken and passed on orally. With modern education and exposure, the younger generation is getting away from their native tongues and has become a major concern for us,” he pointed.
He urged elders and parents to speak in their native tongue to their children at least when they are home for vacations.
“Our languages are the connect to our culture. If language is lost, a wealth of cultural heritage will be lost,” he said.
Khandu offered assistance from the government to researchers and academicians to develop scripts for the native dialects spoken in the state. He also asked the education department to introduce textbooks for pre-primary level classes on Arunachal Pradesh, its people and culture.
“We must take pride on our indigenous culture and work for its preservation in the face of modernization and global exposure,” he said.
Khandu, however, reminded followers of indigenous faiths not to ‘compete’ with followers of other faiths as India being a secular country every individual is free to follow or believe any religion that he or she chooses.
Admitting the fact that many members of the indigenous communities are ‘changing’ to other faiths, the Chief Minister said, “Instead of blaming others, we must introspect. If someone is changing his or her faith, we need to introspect what made him or her do so. May be the lacunae is within us or in our customs.”
Advoicating ‘change’ with time, Khandu said practices that do not suit equally to all must be altered or replaced. He said believing and following a faith shouldn’t be a liability but liberating.
Meanwhile, responding to a memorandum submitted by Hari Taro, president of the Priest Association of Arunachal Pradesh, Khandu assured honorarium would be provided to the priests as assured by the government but yet to materialize.
He directed the DIA to study and recommend the criteria for disbursement of honorariums to all indigenous priests of the state. He further assured that other demands of the priests like a corpus fund for the association, annual meet of priests from across the state, celebration of festivals, etc would be taken care by the department. He said sufficient budgetary support will be provided this financial year.
Earlier, Khandu, along with Indigenous Affairs Minister Taba Tedir, inaugurated the new office building and convention hall of the DIA. They also witnessed rituals performed by priests representing various tribes.
The 15-day seminar-cum-workshop would deliver and discuss on topics like ‘Evolution of Indigenous Priest’, ‘Ritual of naming of newborn child’, ‘Ritual of Marriage’, ‘Ritual of Death’, ‘Traditional Healing’, and ‘Priesthood for Posterity’.
Indigenous priests from every community of the state are expected to attend the seminar-cum-workshop on the days allotted for each.