Arunachal residents demand shifting of IAF firing range, stage protest

ITANAGAR
Locals staging a protest at Dollungmukh in Arunachal Pradesh’s Kamle district demanding shifting of IAF firing range.

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Hundreds of people staged a massive protest on Tuesday against the Indian Air Force (IAF) at Dollungmukh in Arunachal Pradesh’s Kamle district demanding the shifting of its bombing and firing range from the area. Dollungmukh is around 90 kms from here.

The protest came after a local of the area was injured during a routine bombing exercise of the IAF which involved a Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft on Friday.

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

Claiming that the frequent bombing exercise conducted by the IAF has proved to be a threat to the life and property of the locals living in the area, a large number of locals took to the streets of Dollungmukh and shouted slogans against the IAF.

“This act of the Air Force is inhuman as it has been carrying out bombing indiscriminately without taking the security aspect of the people into account. The residents have been living here since time immemorial,” Bini Ranjan, a local activist, told reporters.

Ranjan said that the people of the area have for a long time been demanding that the bombing zone be shifted to some other place where there is no human settlement but IAF  has paid no heed to till now.

“Besides humans, 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.

He said Bini Todum was not the only person to be injured in such exercise as one Bini Tabom, a local of the area lost his life in one of such drills of the IAF in 1992 and sadly no compensation was paid to his family members.

“The IAF is conducting its drills in a place which has 11 villages around it 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 further informed that they have already submitted representations to Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Union MoS for Home Kiren Rijiju in this regard but no action has been taken till date.

“We did not stop there as we also submitted a memorandum to Union Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitaraman during her recent visit to the state but even that has not been looked into. With no other option left we had to state this protest,” said Rotom Tebin, chairman of the Dollungmukh Area Welfare Forum (DAWF).

Stating that they are not satisfied with the court of inquiry instituted by the IAF on the recent incident, Tebing added 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. The protesters later also staged a dharna in front of the IAF’s local office situated near the firing/bombing zone. The Indian Air Force has on the other hand ordered a court of inquiry into the June 08 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.

DAMIEN LEPCHA
Damien Lepcha is Northeast Now Correspondent in Arunachal Pradesh. He can be reached at: lepcharaul@gmail.com