Photo: Sartang youths (Courtesy: http://bomdilabuddhamahotsava.com/)
I heard about the Sartang tribe a few years ago while browsing on the languages of Arunachal Pradesh at the Ethnologue. But that was a distant feeling until a news report surfaced at the Arunachal Times on 12 September 2016 highlighting their identity crisis being categorized as a sub-tribe of Monpa. That inspired me to dig deeper on this lesser known tribe of the State.
This small tribe of about 3000 to 5000 people inhabit in the West Kameng District under two Circles: Nafra Circle (in Jerigaon and Khoina villages) and Dirang Circle (in Salari and Rahung villages). Check on the exact location from a map (see no. 171).
The Nafra Circle has 34 villages. The two Sartang inhabited villages, Jerigaon and Khoina, has the population of 534 and 248 respectively (Census of India 2011). More detail information about the circle is available in another site. And the Dirang Circle has 81 villages and the two villages of Sartang has 569 and 57 peoples.
Around this tribe there are several other communities. Perhaps, the closest to them would be Monpa, Sherdukpen and Sajalong (Miji), so much so that their belief system has been influenced by them. An Arunachal journalist mentioned that half of the tribe living closer to Monpa follow Buddhism and those living close to Sajalong practices traditional tribal religion.
There are six major tribes of West Kameng District – Monpa, Miji (Sajolang), Aka (Hrusso), Sherdukpen, Sartang and Bugun. Together, they participate a yearly event called Bomdila Festival that aims to attract tourists.
A contributor at Wikipedia says Sartang is a cover term and has four languages. Documentation was done for the languages spoken in three villages. The language is closest to Sherdukpen. (See Wikipedia).
As with any minority tribes, the Sartang are undergoing an identity crisis. The concerned authorities refuse to acknowledge their unique identity, rather considered a sub-group of Monpa tribe. This problem appeared at least twice at Arunachal Times: by Taba Ajum (23 October 2013) and Amar Sangno (12 Sep 2016).
Amar documented their crisis this way: “…It is said that on 19 March 2000, Sartang tribe was approved as one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Subsequently, many had received Schedule Tribes (ST) certificates issued by Deputy Commissioner, Bomdila between 2001 to 2002.
Later, then Chief Secretary Tabom Bam issued a notice to DC Bomdila instructing him to issue ST certificate as per the Constitution (ST) Order 1950. Since then certificates are being issued to the Sartang as one of the Monpa tribe.…”
It looks like two apex bodies, the Sartang Elite Society and the Sartang Welfare Society, continue to lead the community to gain an official recognition. In the process they are also demanding for a separate Circle Headquarters at Selari, perhaps to enhance their unique identity.
I hope and pray they will find solutions to their aspirations.
- Gender Inequalities Of Sartang Tribe In West Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh (Published at Impact Journals, July 2015) researched by Cheten Jomba Rockpudu & Tage Rupa
- Tradition and Culture of Sartang Tribes of West Kameng district by Mudang Tagiya and Chetan Jomba Rock Pudu (AP TImes 29 August 2016)