Protests have broken out in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh after the country's Defence Ministry mentioned "Kimin" in Arunachal Pradesh as being part of Assam.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's recent visit to Kimin, a town near the Arunachal-Assam border, to inaugurate a 20-km-long two-lane road has reignited fresh border tensions between the two states.
After dedicating the 12 border roads built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), Singh tweeted about attending "the inaugural function of the road projects constructed by BRO in the North East", and a statement by his ministry suggested the event was held in the Lakhimpur district of Assam. According to local media reports, several signboards displaying Arunachal's name were covered with white paper.
Prior to the event, Singh tweeted about his two-day visit to Assam where he was set to attend the "inaugural ceremony of certain road projects in the North Eastern part of India".
Attended the inaugural function of the road projects constructed by BRO in the North East. The roads inaugurated today hold strategic and socio-economic importance as they will play an important role in strengthening national security and development. https://t.co/U9bj5153eS pic.twitter.com/LT7DrQOrKJ— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) June 17, 2021
The Defence Ministry's move has irked locals, who subsequently took to the streets demanding the immediate removal of the ministry's bureau from Kimin and threatened to continue the protest.
The All Kimin Youth Welfare Association (AKYWA) general secretary alleged that presenting Kimin as a part of Assam was a pre-planned move and it has hurt the sentiments of locals. Other organisations, such as the Kimin gram panchayat and All Nyishi Youth Association, have also condemned the move. They questioned the silence of Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju over the controversy.
@KirenRijiju @PemaKhanduBJP @DefenceMinIndia— Gedak Taipodia (@GedakTaipodia) June 20, 2021
Recently Concluded BRO road project ceremony in Kimin,Arunachal Pradesh was seems to be planned conspiracy to convert Arunachal territory into Assam, why Kimin & Arunachal Pradesh written in signboard were covered? pic.twitter.com/bBE38QYUBj
Joining the chorus, a lawmaker from Arunachal Tapir Gao alleged that the BRO tried to erase "Arunachalhood".
"The BRO has created a misunderstanding between Assam and Arunachal by misguiding Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Kimin is in Arunachal, not Assam. Assam State Chief Himanta Biswa Sarma was with the defence minister that day. He also knows Kimin is in Arunachal. The BRO officer concerned should be booked", Gao told reporters.
However, BRO officials claimed the incident was due to "strategic reasons" and was decided at the "highest level".
The state of Arunachal Pradesh borders China and has been a sensitive area for India since the Doklam standoff in 2017. The standoff flared up when China was trying to construct a road in the area, and Indian troops objected to it. New Delhi has been trying to beef up road connectivity and infrastructure around its border areas to stop what it views as Beijing's assertiveness. China considers Arunachal Pradesh a part of Tibet and is against any activities by India in the region.