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The entrance to Dadam village, slain Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh’s native place, in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district
The entrance to Dadam village, slain Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh’s native place, in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district|File image
DOCUMENTARY

Caught between apathy & fear, Tirap is a reminder of grim reality

Massacre of MLA Tirong Aboh & 10 others on May 21 has again put focus on the Arunachal district that has been living under shadow of insurgency & govt inaction

Irani Sonowal Lepcha

Irani Sonowal Lepcha

Itanagar: The massacre of National People Party’s (NPP) MLA Tirong Aboh, his 20-year-old son and nine others by suspected insurgents at Khonsa in Tirap district on May 21 shook the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh and the entire country. However, the ambush left not just dead bodies but also unanswered questions.

The Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts, popularly known as ‘TCL’ region, has for decades been carrying with itself a tag of being a ‘disturbed area’ and has always remained under the strict watch of security forces.

Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh being laid to rest in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh
Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh being laid to rest in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh
File image

Owing to incidents of murders, extortion, loots and other subversive activities that have been carried out on a regular basis by the underground militants, who, for some reason have been able to allegedly carry out the activities right under the nose of the state and Central government.

The situation, particularly in Khonsa and its surrounding villages, right now is such that, though the people know that staying under the dominance of such evil forces is wrong, they cannot do a thing about it, forget openly speak about it.

To get a clear picture of the May 21 killings and the overall situation in the area, a team of EastMojo recently visited Khonsa.

On reaching the headquarters of the Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh, the team first headed towards ‘Aboh Niwas’ -- the residence of the Abohs -- and met Chakat Aboh, the widow of slain MLA Aboh.

Now in her late 40s, Chakat, though initially hesitant, narrated what happened on the fateful day of May 21. She said that she was at home that day when one of her friends suddenly came to her with the devastating news. Wasting no time, she rushed to the spot along with the Assam Riffles team.

On being asked about any threat calls or information before the ambush, she said that she suspected the role of the opposition candidate behind it. “This is nothing but a political killing. However, we don’t have any evidence to prove it,” she told EastMojo.

Meanwhile, NPP’s Tirap district president Noklam Bisai gave updates about the ongoing investigations. He informed that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team has already started its investigation. He added that the families of all the deceased, the party and the locals of the town were hopeful that the culprits would soon be arrested.

Bisai also spoke about an anti-NPP wave taking shape throughout the frontier state. He said, there are many instances where the supporters of BJP campaigned to vote only for BJP and not NPP. Many intimidating acts and threats were made to our workers and supporters, Bisai said.

Further, he said that the slain MLA Aboh was getting threat calls to withdraw his candidature.

When questioned about a solution for the insurgency issue in TLC region, he said that in order to have a permanent solution for the issue, a people’s forum should be formed and an agreement should be made with the insurgents and our people.

On further investigation, several interesting claims came to light. Right from the story of the missing maid and threat calls to NPP workers by insurgents, which EastMojo has already reported, the locals, particularly well-wishers of the late legislator spoke about the personal security officer of Aboh who survived the massacre without a scratch and was giving out the same statement to the NIA since day one. Not wanting to be named, they opined that the killings were nothing but a political murder.

Next, the EastMojo team headed to Dadam, the native village of MLA Aboh and eight others who were killed in the incident.

The entrance to Dadam village, slain Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh’s native place, in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district
The entrance to Dadam village, slain Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh’s native place, in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district
File image

On reaching Dadam, the team was informed that a newborn was having her naming ceremony. She was two months 10 days old at the time when the team met her. Incidentally, the baby lost her father on the fateful day. She is the daughter of Gamwang Hakhun, who was travelling in the third car (a Toyota Fortuner) in the convoy when miscreants opened fire at them.

The little girl was named Nyamcha Hakhun. Gamwang’s widow, Gancha Hakhun, told EastMojo that she had a formal marriage ceremony just 10 days after the baby girl was born.

On visiting Hakhun’s house, it was found that the Hakhun family lost three lives in the May 21 incident. Jalin Hakhun, Gamwang Hakhun and Wangngu Hakhun -- all the three brothers were killed in the ambush and were survived by their wives and children.

Rumi Hakhun, widow of Jalin Hakhun, said that according to the initial investigations by Assam Rifles, beer bottles and water bottles were found in the area near the ambush spot, which meant that the militants were camping there for a day or two. If the suspected insurgents were camping there for two days, that means the locals from nearby villages helped them with food and other necessary materials, she added.

Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh and 10 others were killed in an ambush by insurgent groups near Bogapani in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district on May 21
Khonsa West MLA Tirong Aboh and 10 others were killed in an ambush by insurgent groups near Bogapani in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap district on May 21
File image

Meanwhile, when EastMojo spoke with the family members of the deceased persons, they were thankful to the government for the compensation and government jobs that were provided to them. However, the primary thing which they wanted was justice. All the families wanted the culprits behind bars.

Arunachal alone has been facing problems of insurgency for near two decades, but things are now getting worse despite the presence of special armed forces. People are furious after recent incidents and hope that the state government will come up with an amicable solution soon.