Tawang: Former Arunachal Pradesh minister Karma Wangchu breathed his last on Thursday morning at the age of 86.
Born in Seru village of Tawang in 1936, Wangchu was the first person from the district to become a minister in the state Cabinet.
During his political career, he served as pro-tem speaker of the legislative assembly, and minister for health, transport and cooperation in the government headed by the late Tomo Riba.
In his extensive political career, Wangchu never lost any election. He retired from active politics in 1994.
As a representative of the public from 1978-1994, Wangchu worked for the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage in the border areas of the state.
According to an official statement, he was a pioneer in taking government policies and development schemes to the remotest corner and border areas of Tawang district.
Wangchu walked to Lhasa, Tibet at the age of 16 and met the 14th Dalai Lama at the Potala Palace. Their mutual bonding continued and was further cemented when the Dalai Lama came to his residence at Tawang twice — in 1997 and 2003.
Before joining politics, he was posted along the McMohan Line as an intelligence officer. He was on duty during the 1962 India-Sino War and was assigned to gather information for the Indian Army in areas like Bumla, Mago-Thingbu, and Zemithang.
As part of his philanthropic work, he provided free education along with residential facilities to more than 1,256 children, mostly orphans, destitute and children belonging to very poor families in border villages like Mago, Thingbu, and Zemithang, with the establishment of the Choephelling Public School.
Additionally, 18 students from financially poor families in the extreme border areas are being provided modern education, which is funded by his pensionary savings.
A devout follower of the 14th Dalai Lama and an ardent advocate of his teachings of compassion, Wangchu was actively involved in philanthropic activities and took out time to work tirelessly towards the preservation of Monpa culture and traditions.
Wangchu is survived by his wife, three daughters, six sons and his grandchildren.
Governor BD Mishra and Chief Minister Pema Khandu have expressed grief over the demise of the former minister.
Mishra in his statement on Thursday evening said that Wangchu made immense contributions towards the socio-economic development of the people and the state during his long and distinguished political career.
“Wangchu was an eminent social activist who worked tirelessly towards the preservation and promotion of the rich cultural heritage of the state and diligently served the people at the grassroots level. He was a public figure of distinction. He was far-sighted and one of the trailblazers of democratic values in the state,” the governor said.
Extending his condolence to the members of the bereaved family and admirers of Wangchu, Mishra offered prayers for the eternal peace of the departed soul.
Chief Minister Khandu in his condolence message said Wangchu was an institution in himself, a great source of wisdom, vision, and guidance.
“The life of Late Shri Wangchu ji will ever be a lesson and inspiration for us. Hailing from Seru in Tawang, he was 11 years old when our country became free in 1947. It was a tough and challenging time for our country.”
“Our befitting tribute to Late Shri Wangchu will be to take his legacy forward. The passion with which he served the poor and other needy should inspire us to work harder and have a compassionate and inclusive society where no one is left behind,” Khandu said.
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