After border, a village, not vigilante post - Arunachal hamlet tells ITBP to move closer to McMahon line after Chinese incursions

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI
  • Published 25.10.09
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Taflagam (Arunachal), Oct. 24: This village lies across the frontier with China, if you go by the location of the nearest security “outpost”.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police post is at Chaglagam, behind Taflagam and an hour’s trek south from here.

The security forces have stayed put despite pressure from local villagers and the Arunachal Pradesh government to shift beyond Taflagam and nearer the McMahon Line, which divides the two countries and lies 60km north of this village.

“We have told them several times you should not be in the middle of a village (Chaglagam) but they simply do not listen,” said local Mahila Congress leader Mailu Tega.

Inko to ulta hum log defend kar rahey hain (instead of the security forces protecting us, it’s we who are protecting them),” said a sarcastic Maku Teflap, a Taflagam resident.

The Chaglagam border post is the only one in Arunachal that lies behind a village. The villagers’ worries increased after they discovered what they say are the latest evidence of Chinese “incursions” earlier this year — in the mountain forests of uninhabited Phomphom, 30km inside McMahon Line.

The small plateau at 6,000 feet that you will not find in the official map of Anjaw district is just 30km north of Taflagam, a three-day trek away.

In January, the villagers had proposed to the ITBP and army officers that they shift to Phomphom or to Kyonhagam, a hill an hour’s walk from here. Security officials claim the proposal is being considered.

“When they (the security forces) can live in the cold desert of Ladakh, what is their problem with beautiful Phomphom?” asked Tega.

“We do patrols regularly,” said an army officer, munching on gulab jamuns made from powdered milk and getting ready for a 16-day long-range patrol (LRP) from Chaglagam to the McMahon Line.

The 60km trek, passing over mountains that rise up to 13,000 feet, will include stopovers at seven camps before the troops spend two days at the final point close to the border.

This is another grouse with the villagers: they allege that most of the patrolling is confined to Indian territory away from the border. It was hunters from the villages here who claimed to have detected the Phomphom “incursions”.

They say the Chinese have stripped off pine barks and painted “China” in red on the trees’ raw, exposed surface.

Both countries use local hunters from their respective sides to gather information in these parts. The villagers claim they took photographs, which have apparently reached Delhi.

They say they have been hearing about the Chinese scribbling on Indian trees since childhood, but Phomphom is “too close” because it is the land of their forefathers.

The Indian patrols, too, carry brushes and paint — of no particular colour. “Yahan to jugad hai (we make do with what’s available),” said a soldier. “We will rub off what they write and overwrite, as always,” he said. This part of eastern Arunachal, close to Walong, which the Chinese had captured after a bloody battle in 1962, is strategically important for both sides.

The Hadera and Glai-Takru passes run through the region, where the Chinese have built mule tracks and dirt bike roads right till the McMahon Line.

On the Indian side, it is an eight-day walk from the border to the first road. It was only three years ago that the 57km road from district headquarters Hayuliang to Chaglagam was built. Sources said Phomphom, if cleared of the woods, was good enough to construct an airstrip.

Chanfi Mayi, 26, a teacher at the primary school here, said people from a hamlet beyond Taflagam, called Talampa, had migrated inwards two decades ago because of lack of infrastructure.

Another village, Nazong, too was abandoned as residents moved into the bigger villages deeper inside.