It was literally a historic valentine’s day celebration at Tawang – that of love of Tawang for Major Ralengnao ‘Bob’ Khathing.
Major Kathing, who established Indian administrative control over Tawang way back in 1951, will now have a memorial set up by the Arunachal Pradesh government at Tawang, land for which will be donated by the people of Tawang.
Before February 1951, Tawang despite being part of India since 1914 through the treaty of Simla Convention, was administered by Lhasa.
Foundation stone of the memorial was today laid by Arunachal Pradesh Governor Brig (Rtd) Dr BD Mishra in presence of Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Union Minister of State for Sports & Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, other top army officers, Tawang MLA Tsering Tashi and family members of Major Khathing.
Strengthening people’s love for Major Kathing, the state government also announced to posthumously award him with the state’s highest civilian award, Arunachal Ratna.
“Today is a historic day for Arunachal Pradesh as we’ve finally got the opportunity to honour Major Khathing for the contributions he made for the state and country which was long due,” Khandu said.
The memorial will go a long way in promoting tourism in the district and it is through the institution that people will come to know about one of the significant heroes of India, he said.
The chief minister further announced that local people have decided to donate a plot of land for the memorial at TsonaDzongpen, the place where the erstwhile administrative camp was situated, which Major Khathing had dislodged.
Braving harsh terrains and weather conditions, Major Khathing and his team carried out an audacious 20-day journey on foot from Chariduar in Assam to Tawang starting February 17, 1951. He reached Tawang on 6th February 1951 and with talks with the local leaders and public he established Indian administration set up on February 09.
Khandu said keeping the historic day in mind the memorial would be inaugurated on February 09 of the particular year its construction is completed.
John SR Khathing, the eldest son of Major Khathing, thanked Khandu and the Arunachal government for honouring his father.
John said it was Major Khathing who during the 1962 Indo-Chinese war had requested the government to post him back to Tawang from Sikkim at a time when everyone was avoiding it.
“My father had a special connection and love for Tawang and that shall always remain. Our family’s relationship with Tawang will never fade away. In fact, the bond has further strengthened today,” he said.
John informed that Major Khathing visited Tawang last in 1985 and was so happy to see the development and progress of the district.
Governor BD Misha extended his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defence minister Rajnath Singh, CDS Rawat and chief minister Khandu for their support in making the idea of creating the memorial a reality.
He also appreciated the bonhomie that the people of Arunachal, especially Tawang share with the Indian Army.
Union Minister of State Kiren Rijiju said he will request the education ministry to include the story of Major Khathing in school text books.
“Major Khathing’s life is a lesson for all of us, especially the youths. He is no normal individual but one who made history. The people of this country must know him,” Rijiju said.
Rijiju said this is how youngsters will know about the contribution and sacrifices of the heroes from northeast.
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma said there are several unsung heroeslike Major Khathing from the northeast who also need to be recognized and honored.
“We should try to study more about our unsung heroes. People need to know the sacrifices they made for the nation as this will help strengthen our country and promote national integration,” Sangma said.
He appreciated Khandu for showing the way.
CDS General Bipin Rawat assured to extend full support of the Indian Army in construction and maintenance of the memorial.
“The memorial will make us all proud and it is through this memorial people of the county would know that there was person like Khathing,” Rawat said.
Earlier, the bust of Major Khathing was unveiled by his son in the presence of Governor Mishra and other dignitaries.