Protest over air force bombing range

Itanagar: A massive protest was staged against the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Dollungmukh circle in Arunachal Pradesh's Kamle district on Tuesday, demanding the shifting of its bombing and firing range from the region.

Dollungmukh is nearly90km from here.

The protest comes after a local resident was injured during a routine bombing exercise of the air force, which involved a Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft on Friday.

The injured, identified as Bini Todum, is a retired Sashastra Seema Bal jawan. He suffered multiple fractures after being hit by shrapnel following the bombings of the aircraft.

Claiming that the frequent bombing exercise conducted by the IAF have proved to be a threat to the lives and property of the locals, a large number of residents took out to the streets of Dollungmukh and shouted slogans against the air force.

"This act of the air force is inhuman as it is indiscriminately bombing the region without being thoughtful of the human settlements," said Bini Ranjan, a social activist.

Ranjan said the people of the area have long beendemanding that the bombing zone be shifted to some other place.

However, their demand was not heeded.

"Besides the people, many dwellings, cattle and pet animals have borne the brunt of the bombs dropped by the IAF since 1968, the year when the IAF signed a lease agreement to carry out drills in the area," Ranjan said.

According to the activist, Bini Todum was not the only person to be injured in such exercises.

Bini Tabom, a resident of the area, lost his life in one such drill of the IAF in 1992 and no compensation was paid.

"The IAF is conducting its drills in a place which has 11 villages with more than 10,000 inhabitants. Our protest today is only the beginning and if the state and central governments do not take immediate action, we shall resort to a vigorous democratic moment," one of the protesters said.

The protesters said they have submitted representations to chief minister Pema Khandu and Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju but no action has been taken.

"We also submitted a memorandum to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her recent visit to the state but even that has not been looked into," said Rotom Tebin, the chairman of the Dollungmukh Area Welfare Forum.

Tebin added that the issue can only be resolved if the IAF shifts its practice base.

Further, the locals also demanded that compensation be paid to the victim of June 8 incident.

They also staged a demonstration in front of the IAF's local office situated near the firing/bombing zone.

The Indian Air Force has ordered a court of inquiry into the June 8 incident.

The statement issued by the IAF on Monday claimed that the exercise had been conducted inside its Dulaunmukh range and the person could have encroached into the zone.

Fighter planes of the air force take off from the Tezpur base in Assam for the drills.


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