REGARDLESS of what the issue is, when reporting on Arunachal Pradesh, it seems to have become necessary for Indian and global media to remind readers that the state shares an international boundary with China. Even when it is completely unnecessary.
Recently, a newspaper with a strong presence south in southern India published an op-ed piece about the political crisis currently playing out in the state. Insightfully brief as it was, Arunachal Pradesh was almost always, without fail, referred to in context to its geo-strategic location.
For example, Arunachal is “the state which borders China” and the state that “our northern neighbour does not recognise as being part of India”, the piece read. Another line read, “When Parliament was thrown out of gear on Thursday on account of developments in the border state…” you get the gist.
A piece of that kind should make people wonder as to what the current political crisis has anything to do with the state’s geographic location.
What does it matter whether China or any other country recognises Arunachal or not? The current (and every) political scenario/drama that takes place in the state is influenced by domestic politics, not because it shares a border with China. One might as well throw in Bhutan and Myanmar to the mix while we are at it!
The mainstream national media is so obsessed with giving everything Arunachal the China angle, it’s bordering on the ridiculous.
Another oft-repeated term is “border state”.
When is Kerala’s political scenario ever discussed in context to its ‘coastal’ state? Or why are Punjab and Gujarat never referred to as “border states” when they too share an international boundary with Pakistan?
The truth is that we, the people of the state and the region, are so far removed from the collective consciousness of the country that newspapers and media outlets cannot help but feel the need to ‘put things in perspective’. Context has become a necessary evil.
Unfortunately, it is unnecessary context that seems to have become the order of the day.
The border context is completely understandable if the article/story/report deals with an issue where it is necessary to so. Context in stories of direct or indirect Chinese aggression or infrastructural development activities that will help bridge communication gaps in areas that actually are in close proximity of the international border makes sense. The problem is not just with articles but in headlines too. In case you are not convinced, let me cite an example.
Last month, a music & adventure festival was held in a remote part of the state. A number of journalists from reputed media houses had flown in to cover the event, including a few from international publications/outlets. The headline from one of them read: A music festival on the India-China border.
I rest my case