The award was announced by Chief Minister Pema Khandu during the foundation stone laying ceremony of 'Major Ralengnao Bob Khathing Memorial' Credit: Twitter image

Tawang: Major Ralengnao Bob Khathing, who played a significant role in bringing Tawang under the Indian Union, has been posthumously awarded the ‘Arunachal Ratna’ by the Arunachal Pradesh government.

Arunachal Ratna is the state’s highest civilian award. The award was announced by Chief Minister Pema Khandu during the foundation stone-laying ceremony of ‘Major Ralengnao Bob Khathing Memorial’ at the Kalawangpo Auditorium here on Sunday.

“Today is a historic day for Arunachal Pradesh as we’ve finally got the opportunity to honour Major Khathing for the contributions he made for the state and country which was long due,” Khandu said. The chief minister said Khathing’s contribution to India, particularly Tawang, would never be forgotten.

The memorial will go a long way in promoting tourism in the district and it is through the institution that people will come to know about one of the significant heroes of India, he said. The Chief Minister further announced to donate a plot of land for the memorial at Tsona Dzongpen, the place where Khathing had set up India’s administrative camp on February 06, 1951.

The state-of-the-art memorial is being built to honour Major Khathing, who led a team of Assam Rifles to establish formal Indian administration over Tawang in 1951 as per the 1914 Shimla Convention.

Tawang was then under the administrative control of the then independent Tibetan government. Braving harsh terrain and weather conditions, Major Khathing and his team carried out an audacious 20-day journey on foot from Chariduar in Assam to bring Tawang under the Indian Union.

Major Khathing and his team started their journey from Chariduar on January 17, 1951, and reached Tawang on February 6. Following talks with the local leaders and public, he managed to set up the Indian administration on February 9.

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Khandu said keeping the historic day in mind, the memorial would be inaugurated on February 9 of the year its construction is completed. He said an invitation would also be sent to all the Chief Ministers of the northeast to participate in the inauguration ceremony.

Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju said he would request the Ministry of sports to include the story of Major Khathing in the school textbooks. “Major Khathing’s life is a lesson for all of us, especially the youths. He is no normal individual but one who made history. The people of this country must know him,” Rijiju said. “I’ll speak to the Union education minister, NCERT chairman, and the heads of CBSE and other educational boards and ask them to include at least a short story of Major Khathing in the textbooks,” the union minister said.

Rijiju said this is how the youngsters will know about the contribution and sacrifices of the heroes from the northeast.

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma there are several unsung heroes from the northeast like Major Khathing who also need to be recognised and honoured. “We should try to study more about our unsung heroes. People need to know sacrifices they made for the nation as this will help strengthen our country and promote national integration,” Sangma said.

He appreciated Khandu for showing the way in doing that by honouring Major Khathing.

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Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat assured to extend the full support of the Indian Army in the construction and maintenance of the memorial. “The memorial will make us all proud and it is through this museum the people of the county would know that there was a person like Khathing,” Rawat said.

John SR Khathing, the eldest son of Major Khathing thanked Khandu and the Arunachal government for honoring his father. John said it was Major Khathing who during the 1962 Indo-Chinese war had requested the government to post him back to Tawang from Sikkim at a time when everyone was avoiding it. “My father had a special connection and love for Tawang and that shall always remain. Our family’s relationship with Tawang will never fade away. In fact, it has strengthened even more,” he said.

Governor BD Mishra extended his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, CDS Rawat, and Chief Minister Khandu for their support in making the idea of creating the memorial a reality. He also appreciated the bonhomie that the people of Arunachal, especially Tawang share with the Indian Army.

Earlier, the bust of Major Khathing was unveiled by his son in the presence of Governor Mishra and other dignitaries.

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