Express News Service
GUWAHATI: An Army officer, who had effectively established India’s administrative authority over Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh in 1951, will get his dues, finally.
Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Friday announced that his government would recognize the contributions of Maj Bob Khathing by constructing a memorial.
Maj Khathing is relatively an unknown figure for most of Arunachal and India but the people of Tawang still remember him with respect for being the sole Indian official to come as their saviour when the Chinese threat loomed large.
He served in the British Army and fought World War II. A British officer, who found the pronunciation of his name “Relengnao” a bit difficult, decided to call him Bob and he came to be known by it.
During World War II, Maj Khathing served in the famous V Force and was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. He was also a recipient of the Award of Member of the British Empire.
He was inducted into the Tirap Division as an Assistant Political Officer in November 1950 and posted to Pasighat and then to Kameng Division with headquarters at Charduar.
Maj Khathing is believed to have embarked on an arduous journey from Charduar with a team of soldiers from 5 Assam Rifles on January 17, 1951. This was the first such expedition to negotiate the extremely-hostile terrain in sub-zero temperatures on the route.
To establish Indian presence up to the McMahon Line, demarcated as the border between India and Tibet in 1914 under the terms of the Simla Treaty, required covering the area on foot. But Maj Khathing and his troops had managed to reach Tawang on February 6 the same year. The frontier region was then sparsely populated and the road network was practically non-existent.
He met and interacted with a number of village chieftains and effectively established authority over Tawang. Indian administrative presence was thus established in this remote part of the country.
“Not many of us are aware of Maj Khathing and his contribution to Arunachal. Once the memorial is constructed, visitors will come to know about him and his contributions,” Khandu said.
He said the foundation stone of the memorial would be laid on February 14, the day it is believed Maj Khathing hoisted the Tricolour in Tawang. “This memorial will be our tribute to him,” Khandu added.