For once, Tawang is not in the news because of China.
The Assam Police on Thursday apprehended a middle-aged person trying to smuggle three gem-studded metallic Buddhist idols into Nagaland. The police weren’t sure if the idols – of 9.5 kg, 400 gm and 300 gm weight – were of brass or bell-metal, but suspected they had a historical value.
“We caught one Sangey Tsering from village Bridike near Lumla, minutes before he could slip into Nagaland possibly to offload the idols,” said a police officer from Bokajan in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district adjoining Nagaland.
Lumla is a key Buddhist destination in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Sited 65 km from district headquarters Tawang, the town is bounded by Bhutan to the west and China to the north.
Tsering, though, claimed Buddhist religious leaders at Lumla had asked him to carry the idols to Dimapur and Kohima where plans were afoot to establish Buddhist temples. The police did not buy his story as Nagaland “hardly has any Buddhist to have a temple with rare idols”.
“Our men have been asked to probe how the idols reached that part of the region,” said Tawang district police chief SN Mosobi. He added there were a few cases earlier of rare idols being smuggled out. Some were recovered from Nepal more than a year back.
Officials in Tawang said the idols could have been removed from any of a network of monasteries, private collections or from chhortens or memorials that line the roads in the district.