The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China on Saturday handed over the five Arunachal Pradesh youth to the Indian Army but more than 800 km east of where they had strayed beyond the McMahon Line separating the two countries.
The five will be handed over to their families in Nacho area of Upper Subansiri district after spending 14 days in quarantine as per COVID-19 protocol, Army officials said.
“Our personnel received the five youths at Kibithu after completing all formalities. They will be quarantined for the specified period,” said Lt. Col. P. Khongsai, the Guwahati-based Defence spokesperson.
The five teenagers had gone hunting at the Tungdara Mountain or Sera-7 close to the McMahon Line. They strayed into the Chinese side on September 2 and were reportedly captured by the PLA.
The Indian Army communicated with the PLA on hotline for tracing and returning them. Army officials said the PLA responded on September 8 to confirm that the missing individuals had been traced.
Family members of the youth – mostly teenagers – said a few of the boys were working as porters for the Army along the LAC.
“Now that they are back in the country, it doesn’t matter how they went to the other side. We are grateful to the Indian Army for helping bring them back, but the government should focus on developing our backward area so that people do not have to risk their lives for sustenance,” said Prakash Ringling, the brother of Prasad Ringking, one of the boys who had gone missing.
The others who were returned were identified as Toch Singkam, Dongtu Ebiya, Tanu Baker and Ngari Diri.
There have been several instances in the past of people “abducted” or captured by the Chinese soldiers from the LAC.
In March, 21-year-old Togley Sinkam was taken away at gunpoint from the Asapila sector of the district while two of his friends managed to escape. The Chinese Army released him after 19 days in captivity.