Fresh conflict erupts between North-East states of near China border

Northeast, June 22: Assam has been embroiled in a border conflict with Arunachal Pradesh. Protests have broken out in the northeastern Indian states after the Defence Ministry mentioned “Kimin” as a part of Assam which belongs to Arunachal Pradesh.

Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju termed the Border Roads Organisation’s (BRO) howler of representing an administrative headquarters (Kimin) in Arunachal Pradesh as a part of Assam a “gross mistake” and one that needs urgent rectification.

A serious mistake was committed by the BRO during the inauguration of 11 new and old widened roads in Arunachal Pradesh by mentioning Kimin as Assam. The matter came to my notice after the event and I’ve immediately conveyed to BRO for urgent rectification of mistake which happened without the knowledge of Defence Minister and Arunachal government,” Rijiju said in a social media post.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent visit to Kimin, a town near the Arunachal-Assam border, to inaugurate a 20-km-long two-lane road has reignited fresh border tensions between the two states.

Chief Minister Khandu termed the matter to be unfortunate on the part of the BRO.

The Arunachal government came to know about the inauguration program quite late. The public leaders of Kimin later apprised the government that the signboards displaying Arunachal’s name and other mentions of the state were being covered with white paste. Taking the matter seriously, I briefed the same to MoS Rijiju who was at the time travelling with the defence minister,” Khandu said while addressing reporters here on Monday.

Khandu said, “Even defence minister Singh never mentioned Kimin to be a part of Assam in his speech and it was unfortunate on the part of the BRO to do so.”

The chief minister said he has directed the local administration to look into the matter and clear the “miscommunication” with the BRO chief engineer concerned.

I agree that the BRO has made a mistake, however, I appeal to the people not to ignite the issue. We are determined to resolve this border dispute and will give our best,” Khandu said.

Arunachal shares around 716 km of the inter-state boundary with Assam.

After dedicating the 12 border roads built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Singh tweeted about attending “the inaugural function of the road projects constructed by BRO in the North East“, and a statement by his ministry suggested the event was held in the Lakhimpur district of Assam. According to local media reports, several signboards displaying Arunachal’s name were covered with white paper.

Before the event, Singh tweeted about his two-day visit to Assam where he was set to attend the “inaugural ceremony of certain road projects in the North-Eastern part of India“.

The Defence Ministry’s move has irked locals, who subsequently took to the streets demanding the immediate removal of the ministry’s bureau from Kimin and threatened to continue the protest.

The All Kimin Youth Welfare Association (AKYWA) general secretary alleged that presenting Kimin as a part of Assam was a pre-planned move and it has hurt the sentiments of locals. Other organizations, such as the Kimin gram panchayat and All Nyishi Youth Association, have also condemned the move. They questioned the silence of Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju over the controversy.

The MoS was reacting to recent developments wherein Kimin, an ADC headquarters in Arunachal’s Papum Pare district was referenced by the BRO as a part of Assam during defence minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to the town to inaugurate 12 border roads built by the organization.

Singh had later tweeted about attending the program and shared a statement of his ministry that suggested the event was held in Assam’s Lakhimpur district.

At an event organized in Lakhimpur district of Assam, the Raksha Mantri e-inaugurated a 20-km long double lane Kimin-Potin road, along with nine other roads in Arunachal Pradesh and one each in the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. The roads have been constructed under ‘Arunank’, ‘Vartak’, ‘Brahmank’, ‘Udayak’, ‘Himank’ and ‘Sampark’ projects of BRO,” the statement had said.

AAPSU All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union President Hawa Bagang said to the media, “We are not silent, we are just watching. Also, I thought, I should send my team there. So I sent my GS. He will bring the report by evening. On 17th June, our defence Minister Rajnath Singh came, Assam’s CM came, Arunachal’s CM came and honourable MLAs also came. So this was preplanned. The chief engineer wrote a letter to the DC of Papum Pare on 12th June which mentioned that a program is going to be organized in Belgarath, Assam but the program was organized in RTC ITBP Kimin which is in Arunachal. The biggest issue is that all the signboards of Arunachal BRO have been spoilt. If they are so scared of China, why did our defence ministry come here? This 20 km route which is in the border and covers 6 districts.”

AAPSU All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union President Hawa Bagang strongly condemned the act of Border Road Organization where Kimin town of Arunachal was mentioned as part of Assam during the Inauguration of twelve Border roads by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 17th June.

This is a big question, why it was done. And I decide that we will decide it in the meeting tomorrow if Chief Engineer doesn’t send out a public apology, then anywhere in Arunachal, BRO official cars or offices will be closed down, Tawang or Bomdilla, everywhere. This is not a warning but a statement of reality. Secondly, BRO camps in Kimin or Nalong or the Assam region in name of Arunachal, need to be shifted immediately. It’s my demand, that you sitting at the border are cannot try to create a misunderstanding of Assam and Arunachal. You can’t misguide people. Lastly, Arunachal government or administration can take this forward, it is decided,” said Hawa Bagang.

Then why is the name of Arunachal being blocked with white paper? Our question is if this is preplanned or a mistake? AAPSU wants the chief engineer to publicly apologize. So we have decided to conduct a CBI inquiry on who has done this and why? How can the name of the state vanish like that? If they are so scared, they shouldn’t come here. We have a meeting tomorrow after which I want to lodge an FIR in Itanagar Thana. Assam’s Belgarath was mentioned in national channels and the letter of the chief engineer BRO. My question to the Papum Pare DC is why he didn’t rectify it. Today we saw the CM’s statement but on 12th June, we were already told about the program of 17th June. Why didn’t you rectify this? Why isn’t Arunachal’s name there? If they didn’t want Arunachal’s name, then why is it called a part of India. We are not scared of China then why are you? If you are so scared, then you shouldn’t have come,” AAPSU president added.

Arunachal Pradesh shares its border with China and has been a sensitive area for India since the Doklam standoff in 2017. The standoff flared up when China was trying to construct a road in the area, and Indian troops objected to it. China considers Arunachal Pradesh a part of Tibet and it is against any activities by India in the region.