Let me start with a disclaimer. This is not an academic piece, but a blog based on lived experiences of me and my relatives. I do intend to dig deeper and write a more detailed piece later but that shall have to wait for now.
Today, I woke up to a news, a Facebook post from a Mising man in Dhakuakhana, sent to me by a friend in WhatsApp. The post highlighted that one of his cousin sisters had earlier been married to a Nyishi Man, as his third wife, but has been divorced by the man and has been made to work as a dish-washer in a Dhaba in Bandarduwa in the Assam-Arunachal Border.
The Misings, who were originally claimed to be from Arunachal, since their migration to the plains of Assam have also went back to the hills either for work or marriage. Bulk of the immigration that happens from the Misings to Arunachal was for work. Arunachal was always seen as the ‘affluent neighbor' which had bountiful of natural resources (read forests and wood) and there was also a demand for workers. Many traveled as household help, sawmill workers, and domestic servants. However, Misings did not necessarily loved going there and migrated only when they had no other choice. Working in Arunachal came with its limitations. Work was difficult, even though the pay was good. Many of my relatives came back with Malaria. The workers had no choice and were employed as bonded laborers. Some of the people in our villages had managed to escape after years of working there.
The Misings were also seen as a source of brides for the Arunachali men. The proximity in language, culture and belief system helped. But rarely were they love marriages (in earlier days). Most often ‘wealthy' folks would arrive at Mising villages, choose a bride, negotiate with the family and then marry. While some lived happily ever after, many did not meet the same fate, like the case described above. Often, the misings were chosen as second or third wives of the polygamous wealthy men in Arunachal Pradesh.
In the modern-day, however, such instances of forced labor and bride migration have reduced significantly, due to the increased awareness among the people. Modern media, easy transportation, and communication have helped in developing this understanding. Also, bonded labor has been abolished in AP. With logging restricted, many sawmills are closed and
Arunachal is no longer a distant mysterious land but a neighbor with a similar culture, language and belief system. There are significant efforts for collaboration, especially among the Tani tribes, to collectively research shared history and language.
However, things are still not very rosy in the rural hinterlands. Cases like above highlight that there is a strong need to empirical investigate the process of migration from the Mising community to Arunachal Pradesh and sociological understand the socio-cultural and demographic changes it is bringing forth within the community.