Friday, September 21, 2012

Tezpur to Tawang--a pictorial journey

With Neten Tashi, a SIB spy in 1962 who escorted
the Dalai Lama from Khinzamane to Bomdilla in 1959

With my closest friend, travelling companion, fellow journalist
Samudra Gupta Kashyap at the Tawang War Memorial

Doing a Piece to Camera at Tawang War Memorial

Pelting rain greets us

At Bhalukpong on the border of Assam and Arunachal

BRO labourers at work








Jimmy Jesibo, a local activist based in Bhalukpong, a town on the Assam-Arunachal Border  is  very angry. The reason: the abysmal condition of the road going right upto Tawang and beyond along the China border.

Bearing the brunt of resentment is the hardworking staff of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), entrusted with widening and improving the roads. Enraged residents, unable to bear the hardship any more, have attacked BRO officials, destroyed their vehicles and have thrown heavy tippers and bulldozers down the steep valleys in the past six months.

Half a century earlier, this was where the marauding Chinese routed the Indian army, pushed into a war it was not prepared for in a tough terrain it was not used to. 


Today the soldiers are definitely better looked after and unlike in 1962, they  are well-trained to fight in the high-altitude terrain of Arunachal Pradesh.


But five decades down the line, infrastructure, especially the main arterial road connecting Tawang to  the rest of India remains a major worry.

Jimmy Jibeso says, "Since the 1962 war, this route is very important for the north-east due to the Indo-china border. If the condition of the road is bad then how will Bofors reach the border in case of an attack. What will we do then? One needs good and big roads for Bofors. This is our main concern. Second concern is that medical help is not good up in Tawang and other places. If a patient has to be taken to Tezpur, Guwahati and other places, the road is so jerky and bad that the patient dies on the way. So we want good roads."

The Army, more than anyone else really requires this axis to be an all-weather road.  Since 2010, it has inducted a full new division - over 20,000 additional soldier -for  this sector.




Deteriorating roads

The majestic Kameng
The Border Roads Organisation, a quasi-military organization is entrusted with building and maintaining these strategic roads. Come rain or winter, labourers of Border Roads Organisation work to keep the only road link to Tawang open through the year but at the moment they are fighting a losing battle. The fault lies not with them but with people higher up who planned  the widening of the only road without building an alternative.

Constant landslips, frequent blockades are a recurring challenge. But landslides apart , BRO officials tell us that they are plagued by a shortage of labour in this sector. Earlier, large groups from Jharkhand and Bihar made their way to these parts.  No longer, since now plenty of work is available in their home states. Excruciatingly slow environmental clearances both by the central and state governments add to the delays.

Many such waterfalls by the road. Koyla was not shot here though

Landslides are a common phenomenon

Once a journo, always a journo!


A BRO labourer



For most of the 300 km, the road is as rough as this

My colleague Nirmal hard at work


One of the lesser known war memorials

Clouds just before Sela

Sela behind me

At Sela--13700 feet

The lake after Sela
The War Memorial at Tawang

Archival pix at the War Memorial. Indian PsOW

A Monpa man

A young monk taking a break in the Tawang Monastery



School children at Jang

At Jaswantgarh--the most famous War Memorial in this sector

No matter what the condition of the road, Army vehicles continue to ply

Unusual site: BRO labourers taking a chess break!

Terribly slushy road

The difficult road

At the Sela zig-zag--doing a piece to camera


Chinese agression in 1962. Captured in a photo 


The Buddha statue inside Tawang monastery

5 comments:

  1. superb one sir, you really reminded me of my days at tenga. of course it was way back in 1991-92. even then the conditions were equally bad and the worst part was that i did not posses camera at that time. it really took me back to those days.

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  2. Sir, its brought back a rush of memories. I made a log hut at the bend short of Jung as you approach it from Sela . On the way back from Tawang it'll be on the left . Pristine waterfalls and immensely cheerful people .... Thank You ever so much

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  3. Nostalgic !!! the days of Tezpur (1987-1988) and Tawang when my dad was posted there in 1988-90, I had trekked down to Bumla, Khinzamanee and Zimmithang. My father would want me to trek down to all the posts and become rugged and tough. I had just appeared for my 10th board then. I still cherish that time. Thanks sir to bring back the time.

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  4. Dear Nitin,
    Please refer Photo No. 18. Is it Nukmadong ?
    Thanks to Govt. which is awaken after 50 years of war and felt that we should remember our martyrs who gave their lives for our tomorrow.
    I had been to Tawang in May 2008, but that time, this memorial was in primitive stage. Now there seems at least an Arch!
    -Alhad Godbole

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