Braving early monsoon rains, hundreds of students in Arunachal Pradash organised rallies in the capital city of Itanagar as well as Tawang, Pasighat and other parts of the state on Monday to protest against China’s move to “standardise” the names of six places in the Northeastern state, effectively trying to rename them.
China claims a part of Arunachal as its own and calls it South Tibet, though India has repeatedly asserted its sovereignty over the entire state.
The protestors, led by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union, rejected China’s claims over the state. “Khoon bhi denge jaan bhi denge, desh ki mitti kabhi nehi denge,” students chanted, proclaiming that they were ready to bleed but would not give up their country’s soil. Protesters also burnt an effigy of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Itanagar.
Hawa Bagang, President of All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union, said China was interfering with the internal affairs of India. “We are not Chinese,” he said. “Arunachalees are patriotic Indians. We speak Hindi here, not Chinese.”
Tobom Dai, General Secretary of the Students Union, said the indigenous people have only known Indian governance after the British left the country. ‘“Hence China claiming Arunachal doesn’t have any basis and renaming certain places in the state doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Protestors said that the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Central and state governments should respond fittingly to the repeated Chinese interference in India’s affairs and its claims over Arunachal Pradesh.
China’s latest assertion is seen as a retaliation to the Dalai Lama’s nine-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month. China had warned India of “serious measures” after it allowed the Tibetan leader to visit areas that China considers disputed territory and said it would hurt bilateral ties between the two Asian powers. China views the Dalai Lama as a separatist leader for championing the cause of a Free Tibet.
This is the latest power-play between India and China over the border dispute. Another long-running issue is the Chinese government’s decision to issue “stapled visas” to Arunachal residents visiting China, which Indian immigration authorities do not recognise. China claims that it does not need to issue regular visas to people of the state as they look at it as a part of their country.