Locals say the area in the vicinity of the range is thickly populated with at least ten functional schools & shrapnel often fall inside the villages.
New Delhi: Protests against the bombings by Indian Air Force (IAF) planes in a firing range located on the Himalayan foothills near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border have gathered steam after live bombings by Sukhoi 30 aircraft injured a local person on June 8, following the killing of four “mithuns”, a buffalo-like animal revered by most Arunachali tribal communities, on June 6.
Protests by local people demanding shifting of the bombing range, the only air-to-ground firing range available in the entire Northeast sector, have been going on for the last 26 years.
The range is used regularly by Indian Air Force’s fighter aircraft and helicopters for practising air-to-ground weaponry training.
On being contacted by this newspaper, the IAF said that it has ordered a court of inquiry to ascertain the “tactical and technical” reasons for the June 8 bombing incident.
While the IAF claims the bombs fell within the “designated range”, locals who have been protesting against the dangers posed by the IAF bombings claim the bombs fell near the Rigyu village, outside the designated range, injuring 80-year-old Bini Todum, a retired SSB jawan, on the leg.
Refuting the IAF claim that there had been no civilian casualties during the bombings till date, Bini Noga, vice-president of the district students’ union, told this newspaper: “It is a widely accepted fact here that on September 2, 1992, a person named Bini Tabom died in bombings. In fact that is the day the demand to shift the range started”.
Besides Rigyu, several other villages like Kherbari, Rajali, Midpu, Tanyo, Para and Lunsi lie in the close vicinity of the range which is located on the foothills near the border of the two states. Locals say the area in the vicinity of the range is thickly populated with at least ten functional schools and shrapnel often fall inside the villages.
“We have already submitted a memorandum to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman who visited Arunachal Pradesh a few weeks back to shift the IAF bombing range to some other place. We have also intimated our long-standing demand to the state governor and the chief minister. But till now no action has been taken,” said Noga.
The range saw the heaviest bombings by aircraft and ground firing during “Gaganshakti”, one of the most extensive and intense IAF exercise conducted since 1987 with the aims of “achieving perfect real-time coordination, deployment and employment of air power in a short and intense battle scenario”.