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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Tawang organises civilian-army friendship event Maitree Divas after six years

Its revival attained significance after the stand-off between Indian and Chinese army at Doklam on the Bhutan-Tibet border, about 550 km west of the north-western tip of Tawang district.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2017 00:27 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Guwahati, Hindustan Times
Maitree Divas organised in Tawang on Sunday.
Maitree Divas organised in Tawang on Sunday.(Rahul Karmakar/HT)

Tawang, the centre of China’s obsession with Arunachal Pradesh, has revived an event to celebrate the special bonding between the local people, mostly the Buddhist Monpas, and the armed forces.

The two-day event, Maitree Divas, was last organised more than six years ago.

Its revival attained significance after the stand-off between the Indian and Chinese army at Doklam on the Bhutan-Tibet border about 550 km west of the north-western tip of the 2,085 sq km Tawang district.

“The relationship between the local populace of Tawang and the armed forces has been of respect and interdependence. We hope the beautiful relationship been built and maintained over the ages will continue to safeguard the interest of our nation,” Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, a Tawang native, said.

Bad weather prevented the chief minister from attending the inaugural event on Sunday.

His father and former chief minister Dorjee Khandu had started the Maitree Divas celebration during his four-year reign. The event was discontinued after Dorjee Khandu died in a chopper crash on April 30, 2011.


Dorjee Khandu, who had served the army in its Intelligence wing, had conceived the event. His idea was to acquaint the locals with the armed forces and motivate them to join the armed forces or a niche force such as Arunachal Scouts - envisaged as a second line of defence during external aggression.

Another objective was to let the locals get to know about intelligence gathering or other jobs the army might offer civilians from time to time.

People in Tawang, having borne the brunt of China-India conflict in 1962, are generally apprehensive about a “possible” invasion by the People’s Liberation Army.

Lt Gen AS Bedi, commander of the army’s Tezpur-based 4th Corps, underlined the importance of military-civilian bonding in a sensitive Himalayan border area like Tawang.

“It is imperative that we work hand-in-hand to ensure external as well as internal security of our nation. The army will continue to work towards realising the dream of a self-reliant and dignified Arunachal Pradesh,” he said at the inaugural programme of the event organised in Tsangyang Gyatso Stadium in Tawang town, about 550km northeast of Guwahati.

Soldiers, who outnumber the 49,977 inhabitants (2011 census) in Tawang district, often depend on the local people for information about the terrain and movement of suspicious or foreign elements in far-flung areas.

Defence spokesperson Lt Col Sombit Ghosh said a run for peace and unity preceded the main event that entailed helicopter flypast, weapons display, a show of army dogs and army mules besides local cultural extravaganza.

“We also provided information about recruitment in the army,” he said.

A Tawang district official said the local administration took the opportunity to push for Aadhaar card enrolment and inclusion of locals for various central beneficiary schemes.

The event was organised jointly by the army, the BJP government in the state, the local administration and an NGO named Yuva Arunachal.