The owner of the land at the centre of a Buddhist shrine-Gurdwara row at an altitude of about 7,000 ft in Arunachal Pradesh has asked the Indian Army to either compensate for using the land or vacate, a report prepared by the local administration has said.
The Shi-Yomi district’s Deputy Commissioner, Liyi Bagra prepared the report on the basis of the meeting between the representatives of a community-based organisation of the local Buddhist Memba people and a two-member team of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on May 18.
The report also said no representative from the Sikh community or the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which had claimed the Buddhists had taken over the gurdwara near Shi-Yomi’s Mechukha town, attended the meeting.
“Gebu Onge, the landowner of the present location of the gurdwara stated before the Minority Commission that the Indian Army established the Gurdwara without his permission and in spite of repeated submission of memorandum and complaints to either vacate the Gurdwara or compensate for the land/area, there has been no progress till today,” the report said.
“Gebu Onge pleaded before the Commission that either the land may be compensated through the Indian Army/Defence or the Gurdwara may be vacated from his land,” it added.
The report also cited Cheeden Goiba, a member of the local Neh Nang Cultural Development Society as stating that the Memba tribal people have been worshipping the holy shrine of Neh Pema Shelphu — a cave sanctified by Guru Padmasambhava while exploring the area in the 8th century AD — since 1274 AD.
The shrine, almost equidistant from Mechukha and the Line of Actual Control dividing India and the Tibetan region controlled by China, hosts hundreds of Buddhists during an annual pilgrimage in March.
“Cheeden Goiba termed the claim (of the SGPC over the gurdwara) as baseless and unauthentic. He said that there is no evidence to prove that Shree Guru Nanak (1469-1539) ever visited this place… there is abundant evidence to prove that the holy shrine belongs to the Memba Buddhist community residing in the Mechukha Valley since time immemorial,” the Deputy Commissioner’s report said.
The report further said that the claim over the land as belonging to a gurdwara gained currency after the Indian Army put up a flag at the spot for use as a tea camp/rest camp for long-range patrolling. The Army established the gurdwara later.
The Memba community produced old Buddhist scrolls before the NCM vice-chairman Kersi K. Deboo and member Rinchen Lhamo to prove that Buddhism has been in practice in the Mechukha region since time immemorial, the report said.
The NCM representatives assured those present at the meeting that injustice shall not be done to both the communities and the truth shall prevail, the report concluded.