After the Tibetan-youth-based Special Frontier Force booted down PLA’s ambitions in East Ladakh, China fears India could be raising a similar deadly Tibetan refugee-based phalanx in Arunachal
Remember the saga of five young Arunachalis who went missing from a remote densely forested part very close to the Indo-China border on September 2?
Credit it partly on their fate and partly on the skills of Indian army generals, who immediately got in touch with top Chinese commanders over the hotline, which saw them getting released within a fortnight.
And that too, not before much flip-flop from the Chinese commanders who first denied their involvement in the mysterious disappearance of the five.
After nearly a week of shoulder-shrugging by the Chinese came the confession that the five were in their `possession’.
And the hapless five were finally released last week, after having gone through a harrowing experience.
The abduction of young men from Arunachal Pradesh, who often go trekking to the vurnerable border points for hunting, by the overzealous People’s Liberation Army(PLA) of China, is not new.
Over the years, PLA has developed a peculiar penchant to abduct at its sweet will young Arunachalis on any pretext.
However, before we delve into the factors behind a sudden spurt in Chinese abductions in Arunachal Pradesh, here goes below a brief case study.
Togley Singkam, 21, a resident of Taksing in Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, earns his living working as a porter for the Indian army along the India-China border.
His awesome knowledge of the terrain has become quite handy for the Indian army jawans for ferrying essentials in this remote area.
Just months before the India-China military face-off at Ladakh, Togley suddenly found himself in the PLA barracks on the morning of March 19 this year.
He was faulted for having crossed the Line of Actual Control(LAC) with an alleged deadly intention of spying on and sabotaging the PLA.
Behind this success lies an untold and till now, a highly guarded secret, which has now become the talk of the town in defence media circles. And the credit goes to the Special Frontier Force (SFF), an elite paratroopers’ community raised from amongst the 120,000 strong Tibetan refugee population in India
With his hands tied to his neck and eyes blindfolded, PLA soldiers almost run amuck on his sturdy structure.
Before his release on April 7, Togley went through an ordeal he would love to forget, let alone recount.
Kicks, slaps and electric shocks rained on him almost every day so that he would be compelled to confess he was a spy of the Indian Army.
His handwriting was put up for ‘test’ by PLA. Fortunately for him and for India, Togley managed to fox his PLA tormentors.
It was only after his Adhar Card details were mailed to the PLA commanders that the Chinese top brass agreed for his release.
Presently a hero not only in his village, but almost in the entire Upper Subansiri district, Togley has vowed to avenge his torture the moment he gets an opportunity.
Be that as it may, Beijing has become extremely cagy in the wake of India’s unprecedented success in repulsing the PLA’s lightning move on August 29/30 to wrest control of the Finger Pt 4 and strategic heights in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh.
In a mountain scenario, commanding the higher heights (as Pakistan did initially in Kargil), is critical, for then the enemy is exposed to open ground fire and we can take cover up there.
This is what India did on August 29-30 this year.
But who dunnit, as one would ask.
The answer shakes China even more. For this success was scored by the once highly secretive Special Frontier Force, which India had created in 1962.
You can equate them to the US Seals, the highest elite among commando and guerilla forces.
And why China is so tremulous of this forces is that it comprises China’s worst enemies: Tibetan youth refugees settled in India, who know that terrain up there like not even China’s PLA does.
After all, it is their motherland, and any attack they can stage on the PLA for these Tibetan youths of rare courage and strength is symbolic of an attack to free their country from China’s illegal possession.
China is apprehensive of the fact that India might be in the process of raising such a force in Arunachal Pradesh as well.
The SFF was formed initially to conduct covert operations behind the Chinese lines in the event of a war because of their superb ability to function normally at altitudes that quickly drain the plainsmen.
But they have to their credit also fighting daring battles in the war to liberate Bangladesh and in other military confrontations India has had to face.
Little is known on where they are trained and by who. But they have the most advanced training in commando action.
The SFF was created in November 1962 by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as a highly specialised body of commandos to go behind the Chinese lines and disrupt their activities.
Based in Chakrata, a commando and guerilla training base in Uttarakhand, it was initially trained by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as preparation of another possible Sino-Indian war.
Interestingly, they are not part of the Indian army, but a force now directly under the Research & Analysis wing, the dreaded RAW, after their command was shifted from the Intelligence Bureau.
The main assigned task of SFF was reportedly to infiltrate as guerrillas and destroy and damage Chinese communication, roads, airfields and radar installations, besides compelling the PLA to deploy disproportionate force at rear security.
And this is why the Dragon is shaking its tail and breathing fire in Arunachal Pradesh. China fears that India might be creating another similar force, for the Arunachalis have a lot of direct emotional connect with Tibet.
This is a religio-political connect: The Fifth Gyalway Karmapa, head of the Black Hat Tibetan tantric Buddhism of Tibet had taken shelter in Arunachal area against China trying to destroy the Black Hat or Kagyu school of Buddhism.
So China is apprehensive that if India forms another such phalanx of pro-Tibet warriors, with people like Togley Singkam– a youth of Tibetan stock ‑taking active part, China’s Arunachal ambitions will become a permanent nightmare!
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The author has served no less than Al Jazeera and German TV, and India’s Parliamentarian magazine among others! To his credit goes a deep-rooted empathy for social issues and humans. He has wide experience in covering the northeast of India. His coverage on the 2020 Amphan cyclone in eastern India has easily been the best around the world