Shergaon in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh Credit: Tallo Anthony

Itanagar: “We will give back the compensation with interest to SSB, but they have to leave our village,” said Rinchon Lama, chairman, Shergaon Village Council (SVC) in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district.

Lama, along with other villagers of Shergaon, are unhappy and furious at the same time because personnel from the 73rd Battalion of SSB based at Shergaon allegedly treated them disrespectfully and also manhandled them.

As per reports, a tussle took place on March 22 this year between the village council volunteers and the SSB Jawans, when the volunteers filmed the latter for defying ‘Janta Curfew’ and playing cricket at the general ground.

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As per reports, the tussle took place in presence of the circle officer of Shergaon who later had to send a report to the West Kameng deputy commissioner for immediate intervention. Thereafter, the Shergaon Village Council (SVC) wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that the SSB, led by deputy commandant officer Amit Kumar and medical officer J Chakma openly defied the ‘Janta Curfew’ by playing cricket when the entire nation was observing it.

“The ground where the SSB personnel were playing cricket is in the middle of the village; not inside the battalion campus, which makes the whole village vulnerable. The administrative officer and the medical officer of Shergaon with some of villagers went to persuade them to comply with the Janta Curfew, which they did not heed to. Instead, they intimidated them by calling more jawans armed with weapons,” said Lama.

Letter from Union home ministry

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He also went on to say that the SSB jawans manhandled the villagers for capturing them on video playing cricket, fearing they might be used as evidence against them and deleted the video forcibly. There were also instances of misbehavior with the women for procuring minor produce from the forest, which falls in the battalion area, said the letter. As of now, an inquiry is going on and the inquiry officer is Sunil Soni, who is the commandant of SSB’s 30th Bn based at Dirang in West Kameng.

“We are happy for the inquiry but why did they depute an inquiry officer from SSB itself?” questioned Lama, adding that “we want a fair trial”.

“The inquiry officer has now summoned witnesses from the village however, the SSB is not following rules by not involving the district administration. They are not even giving us time so that we the villagers can come back from where ever we are for the trial,” Lama added.

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Meanwhile, the circle officer of Shergaon, Asan Kri wrote a letter to SSB’s inquiry officer on 18 June. The letter said that” there is no issue in your summon letters to state Govt. employees and the local villagers. But it is to be noted that you have to obtain prior approval from competent authority i.e from Deputy Commissioner-Cum-District Magistrate and other respective Head of Offices, before issuing such summon to civilians outside your organization.”

“The villagers too are not sitting idly but are engaged in their daily bread issues. In such case, your unilateral serving of summon letters to witnesses in contravention of set procedures without giving ample time to the witness to be present from your inquiry is setting a bad precedent. You have served the summon letter on 17.06.2020 at around 1900 Hrs. and the inquiry proceeding are to be effected from 1000 Hrs on 18.06.2020 which is not practicable,” read the letter.

Letter to the Inquiry officer from district administration

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“Therefore, keeping all these issues in mind, you are requested to issue your summon letters through proper channel giving ample time to all the witness for a fruitful and justifiable inquiry,” the letter said.

A disappointed villager also said: “We even tried to contact our member of parliament (western Arunachal) Kiren Rijiju for help, but he didn’t respond to us.”

Call made to Kiren Rijiju’s office was not responded and Commandant Sunil Soni’s phone couldn’t be reached, maybe due to bad connectivity.

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