Friction in Shergaon between SSB and villagers after paramilitary forces defy Covid-19 Janta Curfew

Photo by Tallo Anthony

[ Amar Sangno ]
SHERGAON, May 17: RD Thongchi, in his late 70s would have never imagined that the Seema Shastra Bal (SSB), for whose establishment he had persuaded fellow villagers at picturesque Shergaon in West Kameng district, would come to hound the villagers just a year after its establishment.
The 73rd battalion of the SSB was established at Shergoan in 2019 with shaky infrastructure.
Thongchi supported the establishment of the SSB, not only for security, but also to pave way for the unemployed youths to join the paramilitary forces.
The SSB is a federal law enforcement agency and one of oldest paramilitary forces in India, which was quite popular for home guard training and friendlier relationship with the tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh.
Sadly, the relationship between the SSB and the villagers is reportedly strained after a scuffle took place on 22 March 2020, between the village council volunteers and the SSB Jawans, when the volunteers filmed the jawans for defying the Janta Curfew by playing cricket at the general ground.
The scuffle took place in presence of the circle officer of Shergaon who later had to send a report to the West Kameng deputy commissioner for immediate intervention.
The petrified Shergaon Village Council (SVC) wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra stating that the SSB, led by Deputy Commandant Officer Amit Kumar and Medical Officer J Chakma openly defied the Janta Curfew by playing cricket when the entire nation was observing it.
“The playground is in the middle of the village; not inside the battalion campus, which makes the whole village vulnerable. The administrative officer and the medical officer of Shergaon with some of villagers went to persuade them to comply with the Janta Curfew, which they did not heed to. Instead they intimidated them by calling more jawans armed with weapons” the SVC stated.
The village council also alleged that the SSB jawans manhandled the villagers for capturing them on video playing cricket, fearing they might be used as evidence against them and deleted the video forcibly.
The representation also claimed that there were also instances of misbehaviour with the women for procuring minor produce from the forest, which falls in the battalion area.
On the intervention of the West Kameng DC, it was reported that DIG SSB Dirang had apologized for misbehaviour of jawans on the same day. However, the SVC went ahead with complaint to higher authorities, which led to institution of an enquiry board.
On 5th May, summon letters were issued to the village authorities by inquiry officer Commandant Sunil Soni of the 30th battalion of the SSB, Dirang directing them to appear before a court of inquiry at the 73rd battalion, Shergaon.
The summon letters were issued to SVC chairman Rinchen Lama, Goan Bura of Shergaon Village CK Lama and secretary of Shergaon Village P Thungon.
It is said that the summon letters triggered more mistrust since its investigation is being carried out by the SSB itself.
The villages fear that no action against Deputy CO Amit Kumar would be initiated.
It is also alleged that ever since Deputy CO Amit Kumar has been posted with the 73rd battalion, the relationship between the SSB and the villagers has been at its worse.
“Two to three years back, our relationship with the SSB was good. Ever since higher officers were posted, relationship started to strain. Now we are regretting why we allowed their settlement here,” said GB CK Lama.
Lama further alleged that the SSB jawans often throw garbage and waste carelessly in the village vicinity, which irks the village council members.
When contacted, Deputy Commandant Officer Amit Kumar denied the allegation of manhandling and intimidation of villagers.
Kumar claimed that he was not aware that there was Janta Curfew on the mentioned day as he did not get any official communication from higher authorities.
“There was an inquiry, and if I did anything wrong, action will be taken against me as there is a higher official above me,” he said.