After a month of waiting for UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s consent to grace the occasion, India’s easternmost town started its centenary celebrations on Wednesday.
Gandhi’s presence at Pasighat, the oldest town in Arunachal Pradesh, was expected to send a political statement to Beijing. Hopes were also pinned on her to check a wave of dissidence against chief minister Dorjee Khandu with the town as its epicentre.
Pasighat, 280 km east of Itanagar, is almost at the centre of Arunachal Pradesh. Beijing claims the state belongs to China.
The UPA chairperson declined to inaugurate the celebrations despite Khandu and his ministers camping in New Delhi for days. It was finally left to the chief minister to let China know what his state was doing to protect the “territorial integrity” of Arunachal Pradesh.
“We raised a regiment of Arunachal Scouts in Shillong last year. The Centre has sanctioned three more towards aiding the armed forces in protecting this frontier. The Centre is also working on our proposal for a Rs 4,200 crore package to link 22 unconnected administrative circles in our state,” Khandu said while inaugurating the centenary celebrations at Pasighat General Ground.
Arunachal Scouts, modelled on Ladakh Scouts, is affiliated to the army and is envisaged to produce war-ready people familiar with the state’s mountainous terrain.
Almost all the unconnected administrative circles border China.
Khandu refrained from attacking rebels wihtin his camp, but came along with almost all his ministers to make a political statement.
Often called the gateway of Arunachal Pradesh, Pasighat is the headquarters of East Siang district. It was established by the British in 1911 after the Abor expedition that year against the Adi tribe.
Pasighat has, in recent years, been in the headlines for being the converging point of public and private hydropower project developers. Most of these projects are on the river Siang, which flows past the town.