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Man Injured in Bombing Exercise in Arunachal, IAF Blames it on Encroachment

The IAF has ordered a Court of Inquiry into the incident stating that tactical and technical reasons will be ascertained, and if any negligence is found, the victim will be compensated.

Karishma Hasnat | News18.com

Updated:June 14, 2018, 7:08 PM IST
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Man Injured in Bombing Exercise in Arunachal, IAF Blames it on Encroachment
Locals protesting IAF's bombing practice at Dollungmukh.
Arunachal Pradesh: Injuries sustained by a man during a routine training exercise in which a bomb was dropped from a Su-30 MKI fighter jet has become a flashpoint between the Indian Air Force and villagers in the Kamle district of Arunchal Pradesh.

The training mission was being carried out at the IAF’s bombing and firing range at Dollongmukh circle when Bini Todum, a retired Sashastra Seema Bal jawan from Rigyu village, sustained shrapnel injuries and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Locals alleged that the bomb was dropped beyond the designated range, leading to the mishap, a charge denied by the air force. The IAF has ordered a Court of Inquiry into the incident stating that tactical and technical reasons will be ascertained, and if any negligence is found, the victim will be compensated.

TS Bini, a local and former Anchal Samiti Member (ASM) of Dollongmukh, alleged that this was not the only such incident.

“Three bombs were dropped from fighter jets from June 6 to June 8. It was a close shave for labourers on June 7 - they had just left the site when the bomb was dropped. On June 6, four Mithuns (the state animal) were killed. We did not let the authorities bury the carcasses and marched to the IAF office and left the bodies outside their gate as a mark of protest,” Bini said.

He further added that not a ‘single paise’ has been paid as compensation for the losses incurred by the villagers. In September 1992, another person of Rigyu village named Bini Tabom was killed during one of IAF’s bombing exercise.

Locals also staged protests demanding that the range be shifted to another place where there is no threat to civilian life.

dollung 2
Google images of the Dollungmukh range shows a number of villages have come up within the demarcated zone.

Raga MLA of Kamle district cum parliamentary secretary Tamar Murtem wrote to Minister of State (Home) Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday, demanding that the bombing exercises be immediately stopped.

“Small firing can be practiced, but dropping heavy bombs is dangerous for our people. The IAF has earmarked firing range, but the bomb fell outside the dropping zone injuring one of our villagers,” said Murtem.

Official sources in the IAF told News18 that rapid encroachment by people in the restricted area and cutting down of trees along the demarcated range has put people at risk. The 4,150 acre site is used to train IAF air and ground crews in bomb deliveries, rocketry and gunnery.

Citing that the training missions are in interest of national defense, IAF sources said that all exercise procedures are well in place, and that the Range Officer clears the area, controls range access and safety before each bombing exercise. However, the pressure on range security arises when people choose to enter despite restrictions.

Google images of the Dollungmukh range shows a number of villages had come within the demarcated zone.

In 2015, the IAF had lodged an FIR with the Ziro police station in Arunachal Pradesh alleging encroachment by locals in the range following which the Deputy Commissioner instructed the concerned authorities to take appropriate action.

While villagers at Dollungmukh alleged that the live bombings were carried out without permission from the Arunachal government, it has been learned that approval was granted by both the Assam and Arunachal government.

In an order issued by the Assam government in January 2018, a clearance was given to IAF to use the Dollungmukh range within the jurisdiction of Lakhimpur district for bombing and gunnery training from January-July 2018.

A copy was also sent to the Deputy Commissioner of Lower Subansiri district, Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh and others concerned, and a directive was issued to clear the area of civilians and cattle, and restrict the entry of any vehicle during this time period.

Another notification was issued by the government of Arunachal Pradesh on May 4, 2017, directing the district administration to take necessary precautions to protect life and property of the villagers living around the range during the period of live bombings from August 2017 to July 2018.

In September 1965, a temporary transfer agreement was signed between Indian Air Force and Government of Assam over the formal handing and taking over of the Dulung Reserve Forest land under North Lakhimpur, sub-division of Lakhimpur district. Later, the government of Arunachal Pradesh leased the area to the Indian Air Force in 1975 for 50 years up to 2025.

At the time of signing the agreement, the area was not as thickly populated as it is today. Over the years, government establishments including 10 government schools were built in Dollungmukh area. The Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) is also not too far from the human settlement area.

The Dollungmukh bombing and firing range in northeast is one of the four established ranges in the country.

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| Edited by: Parth Sharma
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