Itanagar, January 17, 2017: There has always been debates in India over the ethics of euthanasia and whether it can be implemented. It has however, been an age-old practice of the Idu Mishmi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. Till the early 90s, members of the tribe used to carry out a euthanasia-like practice for terminally ill members of the community.
Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a person’s life to relieve pain or suffering.
Tarun Mene in his paper ‘Euthanasia among the Idu Mishmis of Arunachal Pradesh: Understanding issues and concerns of a frontier tribe’ revealed that the Idu Mishmis carried out their traditional euthanasia mainly by suffocation. Terminally ill persons going through extreme suffering were either buried alive or confined into a small room made of stone and plastered with mud to block the passage of air.
Idu Mishmis are mainly concentrated in the Dibang valley and Lohit districts in eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh. The paper titled ‘Euthanasia among the Idu Mishmis of Arunachal Pradesh: Understanding issues and concerns of a frontier tribe’ was published in the Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society last year. It pointed out that the Idu Mishmis used to opt for euthanasia only after the Shaman (witch doctor) had failed to cure a diseased person. The practice, locally known as ‘Misi-muh’, entailed an elaborate performance of rituals associated with death.
Mene, himself a member of Idu Mishmi community, said that since the early 1990s, the practice has started to decline with the last instances of ‘Misi-muh’ being held between 1990 and 1994. Mene attributed many reasons for this, such as the improvement of medical facilities which has made it possible to cure more diseases and also legal interventions.
Mene, however, argues that with the dying out of the practice, there has been a rise in cases of suicides in the community.
Researchers have traced 36 cases of different forms of euthanasia among the Idu Mishmi community.
Feature image courtesy: NRL News Today
TNT News with inputs from The Times of India