There is a remote area of India in the far northeast corner bordered by Myanmar and China called Arunanchal Pradesh. It is an area of extreme poverty as the government expends little resources there. The people in the region are a mix of Myanmar and Chinese as the borders are not well monitored and many trails lead to these neighboring countries.
I accessed this area by flying into Dibrugarh, a small airport in the Assam province, and negotiating with a driver in the parking lot (they don’t have taxis as we normally think of them) to drive me the 3+ hour drive.
You will not easily find any westerners in this area of the world. It is a tribal region where tribal rule trumps national laws, mainly because there is little national involvement. During one of my many visits there I heard a story told by a local how a bride-to-be was recently set on fire because she could not deliver the promised dowry to her betrothed. She had one year to buy him a motorcycle but was unable. As a result she was doused in kerosene and burned to death. There is even a name for it, a kerosene bride.
During one visit to this area I noticed a large parcel of land, perhaps 30 acres in area, was cleared of trees and a large tribe had built wooden type huts on it. This was done within the 6 month span from my previous visit. It was government owned land but I was told the military presence there did nothing about it out of fear of reprisals from this aggressive tribe.
This particular province has had many terrorism issues over the years. In fact, it is one of (I believe) two provinces in India where a separate visa is required. Getting this visa is not easy but I was able to eventually acquire one.
On one such trip to this province, prior to obtaining this visa, I was transported by bus across without being asked for the visa I did not possess. I was not nervous about crossing into the province as I knew they would simply deny entry if asked to see it. But I was nervous on return when I knew they ask again at the checkpoint. I was unsure of the penalty for illegal entry.
On this particular return trip I negotiated with a local to “smuggle” me back into the Assam province. Upon return he stopped the car about 50 feet from the checkpoint and asked me to give him the equivalent of about $7.50 in USD. He walked to the checkpoint and returned 5 minutes later with the ok to proceed. I have no idea if he paid all or part of the money to the checkpoint guard, but I didn’t care. I safely made it across the border.
Although the area is known for terrorism, I did not fear it because the target is mainly the Indian government. It is not unheard that a westerner is kidnapped for money (a Catholic priest was kidnapped during one of my trips to a nearby province) but it is rare.
This province is interesting to drive through. The roads are terrible with large potholes. Very little traffic is encountered and when you do see it, it’s in the form of motorcycles. You will occasionally pass a man riding a working elephant in this province.
Elephants are not ubiquitous here, but are not rare either. The rice fields are susceptible to elephant invasion at night. As a result, the locals have elephant towers. The rice fields are manned at night as watch towers. If elephants are seen they make loud noises to deter.
I was told a story by a local of an elephant revenge encounter. Earlier a local had shot a young elephant in the area. Later a herd (are they called a herd?) of elephants came to that very village and trashed it. I have no idea if this is a true story or simply urban (or provincial) legend.
I’ll share more on this remote area on tomorrow’s post.
Pictures from the region. There are many people here with infirmities as health care is minimal.
Tea is a favorite crop along with rice.