Defense Ministry Acquires Strategic Land Near Sumdorong Chu
The defence ministry is taking control of over 200 acres of strategic grazing grounds near Lungro La pass, which was one of the flashpoints during the Sumdorong Chu incident in 1986 when the Indian Army stood up to and thwarted a Chinese bid to occupy territory in Arunachal Pradesh.
The ministry has moved a plan to take over 202.563 acres of Lungro Grazing Ground (GG) in Bomdir village — 17 km from Tawang town — to develop new defence infrastructure close to the border with China.
The land was community grazing ground used by the locals. The rural development ministry has now notified that the defence ministry is its ‘appropriate authority’ under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 for acquisition. This means that the defence ministry has now been given authority over the grazing grounds in the small Bomdir village, which has a population of about 250 people. According to sources, the department of land resources under the rural development ministry received a request on the matter from the defence ministry through the home ministry earlier this month. As per the 2013 Act, any land can be acquired for defence purposes, railways and communication without the requirements of a ‘village body’ meeting. The Arunachal administration, however, appears unaware of the purpose of acquisition. Tawang deputy commissioner Sang Phuntsok told: “I am not aware of the reasons. These are community grazing grounds.”
The area is of great strategic significance and saw tensions during the border standoff of Sumdorong Chu in 1986 when Chinese troops moved to occupy Indian territory in Arunachal but were forced to move back after getting surprised by a massive and aggressive Indian buildup.
The Lungro La (pass) is vital as it opens up access routes to Tawang and dominates the Sumdorong Chu valley. In 1986, Chinese patrolling was observed at Lungro La, triggering a massive Indian counter deployment that led to a standoff lasting for eight months. While there was no physical clash, analysts consider the incident a good case study to be compared with the current tense situation in eastern Ladakh, where troops have been deployed on forward locations since early May.
“The basic aim of occupying Lungro La in 1986 was to get a commanding position over the Sumdorong Chu valley. Even in 1986, its importance was appreciated by the then divisional commander Maj Gen JM Singh who initiated the response to the Chinese buildup,” Air Vice Marshal (retd) Arjun Subramaniam, author of ‘Full Spectrum: India’s wars, 1972-2002’, says.