Nitinji for Itanagar

Is Arunachal Pradesh the BJP's equivalent of Stalin's Siberia?

It is diverting to see how easily the right can appropriate the methods of the left. Chairman Mao had uncomfortable memories and inconvenient people airbrushed out of photographs. While deploying its top leadership for the all-India agitation against the UPA planned for November 21, the BJP is reportedly proposing to pack off its party president Nitin Gadkari — recently at the centre of a political storm inside the party touched off by corruption allegations — to Itanagar. Is Arunachal Pradesh the BJP's equivalent of Stalin's Siberia?

Amazingly, cellphones, the internet and mass media have annihilated distance but exile remains possible. Siberia and Dandakaranya remain ideas frozen in time. The notions of centre and periphery, of insiders and outsiders, persist. Itanagar remains at the periphery, a modern Dandakaranya. No matter how much the world changes, it still needs distant places of exile where disconcerting people and issues can be packed off.

But today, distances are mental constructs. Modern Siberias, too, should exist in the mind alone. There is no need to map them on to a physical location. Proscribed people should only have to be tagged with an "exile" label like a social media image and poof! They would vanish, even in the thick of a crowd. And incidentally, are we quite certain that Itanagar is peripheral? If social media were trawled, more traffic might possibly be found to emanate from beyond the Chicken's Neck than the heartland, which is dragged down by the Bimaru states. In the communications age, issues and opinions may be thought of as fringe, but not people, places and things. To think of Itanagar as Siberia is an absurd anachronism.

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