A Chaglagam child near a footbridge that leads to nearby Taflagam. Picture by Nishit Dholabhai
New Delhi, Aug. 23: A five-year-old demand of residents in Chaglagam to push the border post out of the Arunachal village and closer to the frontier with China has got a fresh lease of life after an incursion by Chinese troops earlier this month.
Land survey for a platoon-strength post — one officer and 40 men — of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) was done this week at Kapatu, about 40km from Chaglagam towards the China border. The post had been cleared last year by the Union home ministry.
“We kept telling the government for several years, ‘why don’t they put a post ahead of the village instead of inside it, so it could at least get us a road’ (to their fields that lie beyond the village),” Chaglagam resident Mailu Tera said over the phone.
The villagers hoped that a border outpost further up would check incursions by the Chinese, like the one this month when the troops entered Indian territory on August 11 and camped for two days before returning. The Chinese often come up to Kapatu and paint “China” on tree trunks.
Indian Army soldiers on a long-range patrol who crossed paths with the Chinese on August 11 at Delta-6, a point north of Kapatu, are now camping at Kapatu, sources said.
Official sources in Delhi had described the transgression as a “non-event”. Residents in Chaglagam, the last big village before the border, concur that such incursions are routine since India and China differ on the perception of where the border is. Sources close to defence minister A.K. Antony said each side “transgresses” 30km beyond the other’s perceived border.
Indian troops go till the McMahon Line, about 90km from Chaglagam, while Chinese soldiers come down south till Kapatu and beyond.
“Oh this patrolling is not uncommon, only a matter of difference of what they think and we think, but the governments have to sort it out soon,” said Tera.
But an ITBP post being set up at “a four-day walk” from Chaglagam has made villagers happy because it would get them basic infrastructure for agriculture. Facilities such as roads and communication are pegged to the forces’ presence. The only telephone connection for Chaglagam residents is at the ITBP post. Since this is a forward area, there is no cellphone connectivity.
The strategic area is east of Chaglagam as one reaches Kibithu and Walong where Indian and Chinese forces clashed in October-November 1962 in the Battle of Walong. Skirmishes in the Namti Valley, a few kilometres from Walong, are part of local lore.