ITANAGAR: The Indian Air Force’s bombing exercises in a semi-urban area in Arunachal Pradesh have become the target of people’s wrath, with local residents demanding that the IAF move the bombing site away from residential areas.

The firing range the Dollungmukh area in Kamle district was established after the state government signed a 50-year lease agreement with the IAF in 1968, which was later renewed in 1971. Residents claimed that since its establishment, there have been extensive damages to livelihood and people.

In 1992, the local-level political leader Bini Tabom was killed during the IAF’s bombing practice. His family claim that they are yet to receive any financial compensation from any of the authorities.

On June 8, a resident of Ruyu village, Bini Todum, who is also a jawan serving in the Sashashtra Seema Bal, suffered multiple injuries and fractures after being hit by a shrapnel.

Bini Ranjan, a social activist from the area has gone on record claiming that many homes and cattle have been lost due to the IAF’s bombing, which is carried out in an area between 11 villages.

The June 8 firing also reportedly killed several mithuns, an animal that is highly-valued by the indigenous Nyishi tribal people of the area.

Residents on Tuesday had staged a dharna demanding that the firing range site is moved to a secluded area. Their protest failed to gain any traction or reaction from the IAF, with protestors claiming that no personnel came to meet them despite the fact that they had reached the gates of the IAF office there.

Affected residents under the umbrella of the Dollungmukh Area Welfare Forum (DAWF) have already submitted written representations to chief minister Pema Khandu, Union minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, and defence minister Nirmala Sitaraman.

DAWF chairman, Rotom Tebin, said that they had to come out to the streets because of the alleged lack of response from government authorities.

The defence minister was in the state capital, Itanagar, last month when she was asked what measures if any, the government was taking to assuage the people’s demands. The question had to be shielded by state government spokesperson, Bamang Felix, who said that the state government is currently working on the issue but did not give out too many details.

The state unit of the Congress today weighed in on the issue, demanding that the state and central governments grant financial compensation to the families of Bini Tabom and Bini Todum.

The Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee said that the state government should award compensation to the victims within a fortnight and to take necessary measures for immediate shifting of firing area.

(Photograph Manoj Singh)