Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu today announced that the state government would recognize the contribution of Maj Bob Khathing for officially bringing Tawang under Indian rule way back in 1951.
Ralengnao Khathing, popularly known as Bob Khathing, is relatively an unknown figure for most of Arunachal and even India, but people of Tawang still remember him with respect for being the sole Indian official to come as their saviour when the Chinese threat loomed large.
Speaking at a function held to felicitate newly elected Gram Panchayat and Zilla Parishad chairpersons here today, Khandu said that a Memorial will be constructed in honor of Maj Khathing by the state government at a site to be decided by the district administration.
He said the memorial will also house a museum of Monpa tradition and a cafeteria.
“Not many of us are aware of Maj Khathing and his contribution to Arunachal Pradesh. Once the memorial is constructed, visitors will come to know about Maj Khathing and his contributions while having a glimpse of Monpa life,” he said.
Khandu further informed that the foundation stone of the memorial will be laid on February 14 next, the day it is believed Maj Khathing hoisted the tricolour in Tawang for the first time in 1951.
As per sources, Bob Khathing served in the British Army and fought World War II. A British officer, finding the pronunciation of his name, ‘Relengnao’ as being a bit too difficult, decided to call him Bob, and that was the name Khathing came to be known by. During World War II, he served in the famous V Force and for his gallantry was awarded the Military Cross (MC). He also received the Award of Member of the British Empire (MBE).
He was inducted as an Assistant Political Officer (APO) in November 1950 in Tirap Division and was posted to Pasighat and then to KamengDivision with headquarters at Charduar.
Maj Bob Khathing is believed to have started on an arduous journey from Charduar with a team of soldiers from 5 Assam Rifles on 17 January 1951. This was the first expedition to negotiate extremely inhospitable terrain in sub-zero temperatures, and Bob Khathing with his team of Assam Rifles soldiers reached Tawang on 6 February 1951. The frontier region was sparsely populated and the road network was practically non-existent.
To establish Indian presence upto the extent of the McMahon Line, which was demarcated as the border between India and Tibet in 1914, under the terms of the Simla Treaty, required covering the area by foot over very difficult terrain. This, Maj Khathing and his troop of 5 Assam Rifles, successfully accomplished. He then met and interacted with a number of ‘gaonbudhas’ (village headmen) and quickly and effectively established authority over Tawang. Indian administrative presence was thus established in this remote part of the country.
“This memorial will be our tribute to Maj Bob Khathing,” added Khandu.