A tale of 5 missing Arunachali youths and “porous” border with China

The local superintendent of police said that in the absence of any demarcation and marking, it is common for the people from either side (India and China) to inadvertently cross the “porous and ambiguous” border

5 missing youth, Arunachal Pradesh, China, border, LAC, Line of Actual Control
The Arunachal border with China is treacherous where men and planes have often “disappeared” because of poorly demarcated border and extremely unpredictable weather.

There lies a strange case of undefined 1,030 km border between India’s Arunachal Pradesh and China, behind the five Arunachali villagers going ‘missing’ after they purportedly strayed beyond the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The reports of disappearance of five villagers, who used to work as porters for the Indian Army, came to the light after one Prakash Ringling, a brother of one of the missing persons, made a social media post on Friday alleging the five boys were “abducted” by the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA).

Ringling said the incident occurred in an area called Sera 7 along the India-China border. All the missing men are from the Nacho area of the Upper Subansiri district, and they hail from the Tagin community, which inhabits some of the villages across the border.

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Taking a cue from Prakash Ringling’s post, a Congress MLA from the state, Ninong Ering, on Saturday tweeted: “Five people from Upper Subansiri district of our state Arunachal Pradesh have reportedly been ‘abducted’ by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).”

Following the tweet, the police suo motu started investigation into the incident though no formal complaint has so far been lodged over the matter.

“No one has till date lodged any complaint about the five boys going missing, but we are investigating the matter,” Upper Subansiri superintendent of police (SP) Taru Gussar told The Federal over phone on Monday.

He said the preliminary investigation revealed that the five persons did not return to the village after they had gone to the border.

The missing persons have been identified as Prasad Ringling, Ngaru Diri, Tanu Bakar, Dongtu Ebiya and Toch Singkam.

“It’s presumed by the villagers that they are in the custody of the PLA. But we did not find any eyewitness who saw the five being taken away by the PLA. So, at this moment I can only confirm that the five villagers have gone missing,” the SP added.

The army was informed about the development and they have taken up the matter with their Chinese counterpart, Gussar said.

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Union minister of state for youth affairs and sports Kiren Rijiju, who is also the local parliamentarian, on Sunday night tweeted: “The Indian Army has already sent a hotline message to the counterpart PLA establishment at the border point in Arunachal Pradesh. Response is awaited.”

The SP further explained that in the absence of any demarcation and marking it’s common for the people from either side to inadvertently cross the “porous and ambiguous” border.

In March this year, a 21-year-old boy had gone missing after he accidentally stepped onto the other side of the border. “About a month later he came back to the village after the Indian Army took up the matter with the PLA,” the SP said.

India defines its border with China through the McMahon Line drawn by Arthur Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of British India from 1911-14. The line was agreed upon by British Indian and Tibetan authorities following the Shimla convention of 1914.

What constitutes the border with China is an undemarcated line that locals or troops on either side have little understanding of and so apart from militaries of both the countries, even ordinary villagers frequently criss-cross the unfenced boundary called the (LAC).

Meanwhile, China’s state affiliated Global Times on Monday (September 7) quoted the country’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian as saying that China “has no details on Indian army sending a message to PLA about five missing Indians in the region.”

Lijian further added that China has never “recognized so-called Arunachal Pradesh,” claiming the Indian state as part of China’s south Tibet region.

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