For more than 56 years, villagers in Arunachal Pradesh have waited patiently for monetary compensation from the Government of India.
When war broke out against the Chinese in 1961-62, Arunachal Pradesh was one of the main theatres, as the Indian armed forces needed land so that they could set up their war bases, roads, bridges, bunkers and barracks, among other such installations.
In response to this requirement, the Indian government began acquiring private land from locals, who did not hesitate to part with their prized community land. Little did they know that compensation would arrive more than five decades later.
Although India lost in 1962, the local war effort in Arunachal Pradesh was proof of their dedication and love for the country. Finally, the Indian government decided to compensate them through a process beginning last year where funds were sanctioned for those whose lands had been acquired.
In April 2017, the Government of India had distributed Rs 54 crore to 152 families in three villages across West Kameng district. By September 2017, local villagers had received another instalment of Rs 158 crore, reports the Press Trust of India.
Earlier this year, in February, residents from Tawang district received cheques amounting to Rs 40.80 crore. Residents from Tawang, West Siang, West Kameng, Upper Subansiri and Dibang Valley districts were eligible for this compensation.
“A total of Rs 37.73 crore has been given to the villagers. Those were community land. So, the huge amount they received will be distributed amongst the villagers,” Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, told the Press Trust of India, while distributing cheques to the villagers of West Kameng district, late last week.
Prem Dorjee Khrimey received Rs 6.31 crore for the remote Tupken village, while residents like Phutso Khawa and Khandu Glow received Rs 6.21 crore and Rs 5.98 crore, respectively.
Besides land, however, locals had taken up positions as porters, helping the armed forces with transporting food and ammunition. In fact, thanks to the arrival of the Indian armed forces, they also had to learn Hindi so that basic communication was possible. Earlier, Assamese was the official mode of communication for the region, but thanks to their contributions to the war, Hindi has become an important link language for the plethora of tribes from the state.
Previously part of NEFA (North East Frontier Agency), the war in 1962 accelerated the formation of Arunachal Pradesh as a union territory a decade later in 1972, and eventually a full-fledged state in 1987.
“The war brought all the different tribes of NEFA together, and the sufferings experienced by the civilians during the war led to resentment among people against Chinese. Indian nationalism ran high among the tribals, uniting them. People saw how the Indian jawans fought the war bravely, but got defeated. The villagers carried the dead soldiers for cremation on their backs,” said DK Thongdok, author of War on Buddha: A Book on Chinese Aggression, 1962, to The Times of India.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)