TAWANG: Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday conferred 'Arunachal Ratna', the State's highest civilian award to Major Ralengnao Bob Khathing posthumously for his role in bringing Tawang within the administration of India.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu announced the award during the foundation stone-laying ceremony of 'Major Ralengnao Bob Khathing Memorial' at the Kalawangpo Auditorium here.
"Today is a historic day for the State as we have finally got the opportunity to honour Major Khathing for the contributions he made for the State and the country which was long due," said Khandu.
"Arunachal is elated to honour its true Hero, Major Ralengnao 'Bob' Khathing with 'Arunachal Ratna' — the highest civilian Award of the State of Arunachal Pradesh. The award was announced today during laying of foundation stone for Major Khathing Memorial Museum at Tawang," Khandu tweeted later.
The Chief Minister said that Khathing's contribution to India, particularly Tawang will never be forgotten and the memorial would 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 significant heroes of the country.
The Chief Minister also announced to donate a plot of land for the memorial at Tsona Dzongpen, the place where Khathing had set up India's administrative camp in February 6,1951.
The state-of-the-art memorial is being built to honour Major Khathing who led a team of Assam Rifles to establish formal Indian administration over Tawang in 1951 as per the 1914 Shimla Convention.
Tawang was then under the administrative control of the then independent Tibetan government.
Braving harsh terrain and weather conditions, Major Khathing, who was a Naga from Manipur, marched towards Tawang with 200 soldiers of Assam Rifles and 600 porters on January 17, 1951.
Major Khathing and his team reached Tawang on February 6. Following talks with the local leaders and public he managed to set up the Indian administration on February 9.
According to historical accounts of the NEFA, when Khathing and his men arrived in Tawang, he called a meeting on a high-ground near the Tawang Monastery for meeting local tax officials, village elders and prominent people of Tawang.
He used diplomatic skills to win over the locals. He soon realised that the local Monpa community was struggling under the harsh taxes imposed by the Tibetan administration.
He told the local people about India, its democracy and assured them that India will never impose unjustified tax on them.
Soon, with the Assam Rifles men, Khathing took control of Tawang, the Tricolour was hoisted in Tawang and Bumla and the area became part of India.
Khandu said that keeping the historic day in mind the memorial would be inaugurated on February 9 of the particular year when its construction is completed.
He said invitation would also be sent to all the Chief Ministers of the Northeast to participate in the inauguration ceremony.
Rijiju to push Centre for inclusion of Major Khathing's story in text books: Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Sunday said that he will request the Education Ministry to include the story of Major Ralengnao Bob Khathing in school textbooks.
Rijiju, the Minister of State (Independent) for Sports and Youth Affairs was here to attend the foundation stone laying ceremony of the memorial in honour of Major Khathing for his contribution in bringing Tawang under the Indian union administration.
"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," said Rijiju while addressing the gathering.
" I will speak to the Union Education Minister, NCERT Chairman and the heads of CBSE and other educational boards and ask them to include at least a short story of Major Khathing in the text books," Rijiju said adding, through this the youngsters will know about the contribution and sacrifices of the heroes from Northeast.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma who was also present on the occasion, said that there are several unsung heroes from the Northeast like Major Khathing who also need to be recognised and honoured.
"We should try to study more about our unsung heroes. People need to know sacrifices they made for the nation as this will help strengthen our country and promote national integration," Sangma said.
He appreciated Khandu for the showing the way in doing that by honoring Major Khathing.
CDS Rawat extends full support: Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat in his address assured to extend the full support of the Army in the construction and maintenance of the memorial.
"The memorial will make us all proud and it is through this museum the people of the county will know that there was person like Khathing," Rawat said.
John S.R. Khathing, the eldest son of Major Khathing, appreciated Khandu and the Arunachal government for honouring his father. John informed that 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 relationship with Tawang will never fade away. In fact, it has strengthened even more," he added.
Meanwhile, Governor Brig. (retd) Dr B.D. Mishra extended his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, CDS Rawat and 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 Army.
Earlier the bust of Major Khathing was unveiled by his son in the presence of Governor Mishra and other dignitaries.