PLA frees five Arunachal youths at Kibithu 

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Chinese media terms youths as ‘intelligence personnel’ ** Quintet sent for 14-day quarantine

HT Correspondent

ITANAGAR, Sept 12: The week-long ordeal is finally over.  Five youths who were allegedly abducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China near the McMahon line in Arunachal Pradesh’s Upper Subansiri were released on Saturday.

Defense officials said that the handing over ceremony took place at around 12.30 pm on Saturday at Kibithu near the Indo-Chinese border in Anjaw district.

The youths — Tanu Bakar, Prasad Ringling, Ngaru Diri, Dongtu Ebiya and Toch Singkam — were handed over to the Indian Army by the PLA after completion of necessary formalities, Tezpur-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Harsh Warrdhan Pande said.

“All five of them will now be placed under quarantine for 14 days as per COVID-19 protocols and thereafter be handed over to their family members,” the spokesperson said.

The Indian Army has always been proactive in tracing the lost locals and helping them return home, the official said.

Union minister Kiren Rijiju, who represents the Arunachal West Lok Sabha constituency, has also confirmed that handing over of the five youths.

The Union minister has appreciated the Indian Army and thanked the Indian Army chief, his office and the local Army commanders.

“China’s PLA has handed over our 5 boys to our side here at Kibitu area. I appreciate Indian Army for the smooth return of our citizens. I thank Indian Army Chief, his office and the local Commanders for constantly following up the matter and regularly updating me on the matter,” Rijiju tweeted.

While sharing a picture of five youths, Rijiju in another tweet thanked Union defence minister Rajnath Singh for his concern over the issue.

The five youths had gone missing from the Indo-Sino border in the Upper Subansiri district on September 2.

They had reportedly gone for hunting in the Sera-7 area of Nacho, the last administrative circle along the McMahon Line from where they were allegedly abducted by the Chinese army.

Following the incident, the Indian Army had sent a hotline message to its Chinese counterpart, to which the latter had on September 08, responded and confirmed that the missing youths had been found on their side.

After concerns were raised by the Indian government about the “abduction”, the PLA on September 8 conveyed that the five youths were found by them across the border.

Meanwhile, China’s state-owned Global Times has claimed that the five youths from Arunachal Pradesh were actually “intelligence personnel” sent to spy on China.

India, however, has already clarified that the youths are civilians from Arunachal Pradesh, who strayed while on a hunting trip.

The youths, engaged as porters by the Indian Army, were reported missing by their families on social media.

The defence spokesperson, in an official statement, said, “Arunachal Pradesh is known for its rich natural heritage and adventurous people fond of exploring the nature for medicinal herbs and possessing traditional flair for hunting which involves surviving off the land for weeks in jungles and far-flung remote areas.

“During such adventurous forays, at times youth have inadvertently strayed to the other side of the Line of Actual Control. All such individuals were brought back home safely following consistent efforts and coordination by the Army.”

In the latest instance, the Army had approached the PLA on the hotline to trace the youths, the defence sources maintained.

Family members of the youths in Upper Subansiri, after learning about their release, extended gratitude to the Army and the officials of the Centre and the state government.

“The release was arranged in a matter of a few days. I can’t thank the Army, government officials and the PLA enough for their cooperation and goodwill gesture,” Reri Delak Bakar, the brother of Tanu Bakar, said.

Dasanglu Pul, who represents Hayulilang constituency in Anjaw, also said that it was a “welcome move by China”. (With inputs from PTI)

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