Current focus on the Yobins and Vijaynagar

[ Avia Ngwazah ]

With Governor BD Mishra intensely pushing for road connectivity to Vijaynagar circle in Changlang district, and with the recent drive and trudging of Chief Minister Pema Khandu and team, including RWD Minister Honchun Ngandam, UD Minister Kamlung Mossang and others to Yobin villages and Vijaynagar, these otherwise bypassed places came to the front pages of the dailies. And it should rightly be so. So, taking the advantage of public attention on this region, I would like to share some important facts about the indigenous Yobin tribe of the area, especially the geopolitical significance and crucial contributions rendered by the tribe.

The Yobin no doubt has been the most overlooked and misunderstood tribe of the state. Generally, the tribe is referred to as the ‘little-known tribe’ of the state. This perhaps is so due to geographical isolation and non-representations in the mainstream of the state affairs.

However, although remaining enigmatic and little-known, the Yobin tribe of Arunachal Pradesh has tremendous political significance and made invaluable contributions to our nation. The contributions, although unknown to many, are remarkable. Let the comments below speak for themselves:

The government of Arunachal Pradesh: “… From available records it is seen that the [Vijaynagar] area was brought under Indian territory after the military expedition OP Srijitga, led by the then major Sumer Singh of 7th Assam Rifles, which landed in the territory of Yobin tribe in May 1961 and flew the tricolour. Kindly refer to page number 28 of the Northeast Trilogy-III, which mentions about this expedition and indicates about the presence of Yobin tribe in that area, which was encountered by the 7th Assam Rifles officers.”

It is understood that, prior to the referred expedition, the area was undiscovered and a no-man’s land. It may be noted that it was only in 1972 that the joint teams of India and Myanmar undertook boundary survey and boundary pillars were erected. It is common knowledge that the Yobins at that time had helped the government authorities in demarcation of the international boundary line and do so even today, when boundary pillars are examined” (GoAP File No-Secy (SW) SC/ST (IN-EX) (99), dated 26 Novembr, 2014, Page 3/5).

Gold medla citation, Statehood Day 20/2/2019

“Shri Akhi Yeliyeh Yobin is one among the three persons [Yobins] who helped the Indian authorities in the process of demarcating the Indo-Myanmar in Vijaynagar circle in the year 1972. It is with his excellent topographical knowledge and immense physical endurance that the sites could be reached in such inaccessible terrains. The current border pillars stand in the locations suggested by him.”

The citation continues, “Also, it was Shri Akhi Yeliyeh Yobin who convinced Maj Sumer Sigh to relocate the Dakota landing strip from Gandhigram village to a more suitable location in Dawodi or Vijaynagar in the year 1962. He donated a large portion of Dawodi village for the construction of an advanced landing ground (ALG). In 1962, a rough landing ground was prepared on which an aircraft landed. Later, in 1965, together with another Yobin leader, Shri Khumacha Yobin, Shri Akhi Yelihey rallied the Yobin community and manually dug the present ALG in Vijaynagar. This is how the ALG of Vijaynagar, the sole mode of communication and connection with the outside world, came into existence in Vijaynagar.”

[Note: Akhi Yeliyeh was awarded gold medal by the governor of Arunachal Pradesh, BD Mishra, on 20 February, 2019 in Itanagar.]

Here was another Yobin patriarch who was modest, unassuming and yet extremely important for our national consolidation. He too was posthumously awarded gold medal. His fabulous citation read, “On 7 May, 1961, when team of Chauka Pass Expedition, led by Indian military men and local guides, arrived in Sidi village (renamed as Gandhigram in 1961), it was late Choagey Yobin, Yobin headman, who welcomed the team. On the same day, on suggestion from the officers of the Assam Rifles, in the team, he and under his guidance, several other Yobin men made their allegiance to the Indian flag and vowed to be loyal and true Indians.

“In 1972, when the Burmese government wanted to clarify the international boundary with India, in the then Tirap frontier division, Choagey Yobin directed three young men – Akhi Yeliyey Yobin, Wachupi Yobin and Adi Yota Yobin – to help the authorities identify the Yobin areas. These three men with their excellent topographical knowledge identified the sites where border pillars were to be erected.”

“The contributions of Choagey Yobin in assimilating the Yobin tribe and Yobin land under the nationality of India is highly significant and need to be appreciated at the highest level,” the citation read.

It may also be pertinent to mention here that Manasu Yobin, of Gandhigram village, happens to be a Surya Chakra awardee for patriotism, given under the hand of former president Giani Zail Singh.

Now something on the constitutional identity of the Yobin tribe: You might laugh or be upset but till the late ’60s, the CRPF in Miao used to detain Yobin tribesmen. At such time, the Singpho elders of Miao used to enlighten the military that Yobins are Indians hailing from remote Burma border villages of Vijaynagar circle. However, off and on, the misunderstanding lingered until one day the then chief secretary T Ringu did a general notification, educating the ignorant ones that Yobins are citizens of the Republic of India as per the constitution’s Article No 5. The notification read thus: “Lisu/Yobin tribe residing in Vijaynagar area of Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh are citizens of India by virtue of the provisions of Article 5 of the constitution of India, read with Section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955″ (Memo No POL-57/79/Vol-II, dated Itanagar, the 19th January. 1994).” And this notification has silenced all malicious mouthing against the tribe.

It is also pertinent to mention here that the Yobin tribe is given ST of Arunachal Pradesh under the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order 1950, Part XVIII as such was the direction of the constitutional & legal matters division (MTA,GOI) and the NCST.

Finally, here is an appeal for this enigmatic tribe. The tribe is yet to be adequately represented in the state. As of now, there are only 17 ‘regular’ Yobin individuals employed by the GoAP. The highest ranks among them are a UDC (clerk) and a JT serving as resource coordinator. This is something unheard of but true. This situation is not acceptable and it goes against the very spirit the constitution of our country.

The main reason for lack of employment is due to the ST atrocities the tribe has suffered over the decades. Now that the ST glitch is fixed, the Yobin tribe should be given special employment packages and a welfare board should be created to make up for the lags that have accumulated over all these decades. (The contributor is general secretary of the Yobin Tribe Fundamental Rights Forum, Miao, Changlang)