BASAR: On November 2 after two soldiers from the 2nd Arunachal Scouts were taken into custody for allegedly creating a ruckus at a cultural festival in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district, the events that unfolded have escalated into a full-blown division between the Army and the local police.

The Arunachal Scouts is an infantry regiment that was raised in 2010 to defend India's border with Tibet (China) in Arunachal Pradesh, similar to the Ladakh Scouts. Last Friday, two of them were arrested for allegedly creating disturbance at the venue of the annual Buddha Mahotsava held at the district’s headquarters of Bomdila.

The detention of their fellow soldiers did not go down well with two soldiers of the 2nd Arunachal Scouts who were not in uniform and reportedly pelted stones at the police station in Bomdila the next day. The police now insist that they assaulted the officer-in-charge of the police station.

Local media reported that another round of stone-pelting took place the same afternoon, this time, however, there were more troops following a meeting between the Arunachal Scouts and the West Kameng superintendent of police earlier in the morning.

The incident drew widespread condemnation from several civil society organisations, including community bodies of from the district, as videos of the incident became viral across the state.

The All West Kameng District Students’ Union (AWKDSU) claimed that this is the second time that such an incident involving personnel of the Arunachal Scouts has occurred since 2014.

The students’ body also said Bomdila is not hit by terrorism, negating the need for border security personnel to be posted in the town.

The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) said that the ‘mob attack is a strong breach of discipline by a paramilitary force that ought to be reined in and dealt with strongly. It is a kind of mutiny which does not have a place in our democratic setup. The incident has left a bitter taste in the mind of common masses and a kind of fear syndrome have engulfed the whole town of Bomdila that too during the celebration of auspicious Buddha Mahatsova festival’.

Protests marches calling for the arrest of the men involved followed, with some women fearing for their safety.

This last Tuesday, several women’s organisations from the district staged a protest demanding action against the security personnel involved in the incident. They also voiced their resentment over the alleged ‘unruly behaviour’ shown by the soldiers against a policewoman and the deputy commissioner, Sonal Swaroop.

While the two sides blamed each other, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman who was in the state to celebrate Diwali with Army troops posted along the international border with China, stopped at Bomdila to assess the situation.

Sitharaman met with the local legislator, civil society representatives, officials from the administration, police, and Arunachal Scouts who gave their versions of the November 3 incident.

West Kameng superintendent of police, Raja Bhantia, today informed that investigations are currently underway on five different FIRs that were filed. An inquiry based on a complaint made by the Army is also ongoing. Army veterans are incensed about the entire attack, maintaining that the civil authorities have bridged all barriers and are using the services to excuse their own incompetency and misbehaviour.