EDFDS condemns torching of gonpa, says allegations against Simong community baseless

Staff Reporter

ITANAGAR, 5 Nov: The Eko Dumbing Forest Development Society (EDFDS) on Friday strongly condemned the recent torching of a gonpa in Tuting in Upper Siang district and said such an incident should not have happened.

In a press statement, the society said that, following the incident, rumours are doing the rounds on social media, blaming the Simong community for the arson.

“There are rumours and allegations doing the rounds on social media, blaming the Simong community behind the incident. The allegations are damaging the image of the peace-loving people of the Simong community and Upper Siang district as whole,” the EDFDS stated, and claimed that the allegations are “totally baseless and fabricated, levelled by a few vested interest people.”

“The culprits do not belong to any community. Action should be taken against whoever is responsible behind the incident as per the law established, but should not blame any community,” the EDFDS said.

┬áIt further said that the place where the incident occurred is called Eko Dumbing and belongs to the Simong community. “The Memba and Khamba communities call it Riwotala,” it said.

“The Eko Dumbing is a sacred religious valued place for the Simong community, and people of village offer prayers to Eko Dumbing, and every four years the Simong community celebrates a religious festival called Jihang at Eko Dumbing area,” it added.

The society said that the Eko Dumbing area has never been a disputed land as the Memba and Khamba communities living in its vicinity sought permission from the elders of the Simong community to offer prayers “and the Simong community has no objection to offering prayers as the ownership of the land was never disputed.”

It further claimed that, in August 2021, the people of the Simong community found three structures, including a small log cabin gonpa, erected in the area without the knowledge of the community. “The structures were built in an area where the Simong people offer rituals before collecting medicinal value wild herbs,” the EDFDS said.

It said that the “illegal structures erected by the Buddhist communities hurt the religious sentiment of the Simong community and subsequent notice was served to them to remove the structures, in which the Buddhist communities refused to remove.”

It also claimed that “the Simong community agreed to the terms placed by the Upper Siang deputy commissioner for shifting of the gonpa from the particular area to an alternative site to resolve the dispute amicably.

“However,” it said, “in the meantime, the incident of alleged torching occurred, which derailed the entire peaceful resolution process.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Alo Libang has appealed to the Buddhist and the Simong communities to maintain peace and harmony “and refrain from provoking the situation without knowing the ground situation.”

Libang, who is a local MLA, said, “Without knowing the ground reality, I appeal to the people of both communities to refrain from giving and commenting provocative statements as it would escalate the situation.”

He also appealed to the non-native people of both the Buddhist and the Adi communities to stop interfering in the issue. “Instead, they should help in resolving the matter peacefully,” Libang said.

Sources in the district police informed that the situation is under control and the matter is being investigated.