Five youths who were allegedly abducted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China near
the McMahon line in Arunachal Pradesh’s Upper Subansiri were released on Saturday in Anjaw district, around 1,000 km away.
The youths were handed over to the Indian Army by the PLA after completing necessary formalities, Tezpur-based defence spokesperson Lt Col Harsh Warrdhan Pande said.
“All five of them will now be placed under quarantine for 14 days as per COVID-19 protocols and thereafter be handed over to their family members,” the spokesperson said.
The development comes amid a prolonged border face-off between India and China in eastern Ladakh.
The youths, who went hunting on September 2, were allegedly whisked away by the Chinese troops from Sera-7, an Army patrol zone located around 12 km further north of Nacho
in Upper Subansiri district.
“Arunachal Pradesh is known for its rich natural heritage and adventurous people fond of exploring the nature for medicinal herbs and possessing traditional flair for hunting which involves surviving off the land for weeks in jungles and far-flung remote areas. During such adventurous forays, at times youth have inadvertently strayed to the other side of the Line of Actual Control,” Pande said.
The PLA had on Tuesday conveyed that the five youths, who went missing on September 4 from the Sino-Indian border in Upper Subansiri district, were found by them across the border.
“The Indian Army took over all five individuals at Kibitu on 12 Sep 2020 after completing all the formalities. Individuals will now be quarantined for 14 days as per COVID-19 protocol and will thereafter be handed over to their family members,” the Army said in a statement.
“The Chinese PLA has confirmed to the Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow i.e. 12th September 2020 at a designated location,” Rijiju tweeted on Friday.
It was Rijiju who first broke the news about the PLA’s confirmation that the youths were found on the Chinese side of the Sino-Indian border.
Rijiju, the Union sports minister, hails from Arunachal Pradesh.
The incident came to light when two members from the group of youths, who went hunting in the jungle, returned home and informed the families of the five that they were whisked away by the Chinese troops from Sera-7, an Army patrol zone located about 12 km further north of Nacho.
Nacho is the last administrative circle along the McMahon line and is around 120 km from the district headquarters Daporijo.
Those who were allegedly kidnapped by the Chinese Army were identified as Toch Singkam, Prasat Ringling, Dongtu Ebiya, Tanu Baker and Ngaru Diri.
On Monday, China brushed off concerns over the whereabouts of the five youths and needled India, saying it has never recognised Arunachal Pradesh which it claims is part of south Tibet.
“China’s position on the east sector of the China-India boundary, or Zangnan (the southern part of China’s Xizang (Tibet) ), is consistent and clear,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing, adding the Chinese government has never recognized the so-called “Arunachal Pradesh”.
“I’m not aware of the situation you mentioned,” the spokesperson said when asked about any updates about the missing Indian nationals.
The development comes at a time when the Indian Army has enhanced its deployment along the 3,400 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in view of the tense border row between India and China in eastern Ladakh.
In March, a 21-year-old man was abducted by the PLA from Asapila sector near the McMahon line.
While his two friends managed to escape, Togley Sinkam was taken away at gunpoint, his family had said.
After 19 days in captivity, the youth was released by the Chinese Army.
On September 2, the Indian Army provided food, warm clothes and medical assistance to three Chinese citizens who had lost their way in sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of 17,500 feet in a border area in North Sikkim.
The Indian Army personnel deployed in the area also guided the Chinese citizens, including a woman, to return to the Chinese side and reach their destination.
(With PTI Inputs)