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‘Arunachal people are more Indian than any Indian’
Published on 17 Dec. 2009 11:33 PM IST
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They are from opposition parties in the Arunachal Pradesh assembly but share the same dream -- of seeing the northeast frontier state as one of the most developed in India -- and are dismissive of Chinese claims on their region. So when Tenzing Norbo Jhongdok of the Congress and Jomin Tayeng of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) - both first time legislators - met at an orientation programme in Parliament House here Wednesday, they seemed quite united. For them, and 23 other lawmakers from the state assembly, Arunachal Pradesh merging into mainstream development is of greater political interest than China’s Tawang claim. “People in Arunachal Pradesh won’t say ‘Namaste’ but with folded hands they will generally say ‘Jai Hind’ to greet you. So strong is the sense of patriotism (there),” said Jhongdok, a civil servant- turned-politician, who recalled how he had to leave his home during the 1962 “Chinese aggression and live in Assam for many months”. “I have myself suffered at the hands of Chinese aggression. People in our state generally don’t bother about China claiming a part of Arunachal,” he said, rebutting Beijing’s “baseless claims” that Tawang, a centre for Buddhism famous for its ancient monastery and seat of the Dalai Lama, belonged to it. Tayeng, a former chief secretary of neighbouring Meghalaya, was more vocal than his Congress colleague. “Arunachal Pradesh has been part of India since centuries. It is not even questionable. India doesn’t belong to one culture, one religion ... Indianess is a composite culture and we are part of that. Who cares what China has to say,” Tayeng told IANS. “Yes, that is true; it is rather Chinese frustration,” quipped a soft-spoken Nang Seti Mein, an independent legislator, nodding her head in conformity with Tayeng. “Arunachal people are more Indian than any Indian... You come and see it for yourself. Why should you believe me?” India and China fought a border war in 1962, with Chinese troops advancing deep into Arunachal Pradesh and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian troops. China has never recognised the 1914 McMahon Line and claims 90,000 sq km, nearly all of Arunachal Pradesh. Recently, China raised objections to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the state saying it was disputed and Tawang belonged to it. The legislators admitted that the “sense of alienation” among people in the northeast, in general, had created a gulf between them and the rest of India, which they said was disappearing fast now. “We have felt neglected. You know it is like out of sight, out of mind,” Mein said. “But it has died down now. The central government has been giving lots of attention (towards the northeast).” Mein was referring to the Rs 24,000-crore (Rs 240 billion) development package that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced last year to bring Arunachal on a par with other developed states in the country. The fund is meant for building better roads and communication, invest in hydro-power projects, better health and education and create employment opportunities in the state. Also last year, the state government signed pacts with various private companies for 42 hydroelectric plants that are expected to generate electricity in excess of 27,000 MW. Construction of the Upper Siang Hydroelectric Project, which is expected to generate between 10,000 to 12,000 MW, began in April this year. “China has been developing its border regions very fast. That is what India needs to do. I am sure the government of India has realized it and that is why you see people in Delhi (the central government) are paying close attention to our problems,” said Jhongdok. Jhongdok, a former power commissioner in the state, wants private companies to invest in “the huge” hydroelectric potential the state has. “We want more private investment. You know there is a huge potential for hydropower in our state - about 60,000 MW of power - enough to electrify the entire region. But that needs to be tapped,” said the legislator. “No electricity, bad road connectivity, no employment opportunities are some of our main problems,” he said. “And can you believe 50 percent of our villages have not been electrified?”

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