Itanagar: Five youths from Arunachal Pradesh, who went missing on September 2 and were later found to be in Chinese territory, would be handed over to Indian authorities on Saturday, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju announced on Friday.
Rijiju, the Union Youth Affairs and Sports Minister and an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, in a tweet, said: “The Chinese PLA has confirmed to Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow — 12th September — at a designated location.”
Contacted by IANS, Taru Gussar, the Superintendent of Police of Upper Subansiri district from where the youths hailed, said it was a very sensitive issue, and they were unable to tell the media anything before the actual handing over takes place.
Rijiju had on Tuesday said that China’s PLA has responded to the hotline message sent by the Indian Army about the youths, confirming they had been found while modalities to return them were being worked out.
Defence sources had said that persistent efforts of Indian Army had led to the five missing hunters, who had inadvertently crossed over the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on September 2, being traced.
“Chinese Army on Tuesday responded on the hotline and confirmed that the missing Indians have been found on their side. Formalities for their early transfer is being coordinated with the Chinese Army,” a source said.
As the issue of the missing youth came to light, Congress’ deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Gaurav Gogoi, had urged Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to ensure their safe return amid local media reports that the youths had been kidnapped.
The state government had said that it was closely monitoring the case, and the district administration has been directed to assist all agencies concerned to trace the missing boys.
Local media had reported that the reported kidnappings occurred in a forest area near Nacho in Upper Subansiri. According to the reports, Toch Singkam, Prasat Ringling, Dongtu Ebiya, Tanu Baker and Ngaru Diri, all from the Tagin community, had gone to the forest for hunting. Two other villagers, who had managed to flee the spot, had informed the other villagers.
The India-China border is about 170 km from Daporijo, the headquarters of Upper Subansiri, which is itself 280 km from Itanagar.
A team from the police station at Nacho – the last administrative circle along the McMahon Line and around 120 km from Daporijo – had been sent to the forward area village to make inquiries.
Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,080 km-long border with China.
Earlier in September, the Indian Army had provided food, warm clothes and medical assistance, including oxygen, to three Chinese citizens who had lost their way in sub-zero temperatures in a border area in north Sikkim, at an altitude of 17,500 feet.
The Indian troops deployed in the area also guided the Chinese citizens, including a woman, to return home. The Chinese citizens expressed their gratitude to India and the Indian Army for their prompt assistance.