Longju Incident Of 1959: How India Lost Arunachal Territory Where China Has Built A Village

by Swarajya Staff - Nov 7, 2021 10:24 AM
Longju Incident Of 1959: How India Lost Arunachal Territory Where China Has Built A Village New Chinese village in Arunachal (Twitter)
Snapshot
  • The Longju clash took place in August 1959, only months after the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa fearing a Communist crackdown and reached India.

Since 2017, China has been building over 600 border defence villages along the Himalayan frontier with India and Bhutan. While most of the villages that have come up under the ‘Xiaokang’ (well-off) border villages programme are in Chinese territory, some are located in areas belonging to India and Bhutan that have been under Chinese control for decades.

At least one such village with around 100 homes and allied infrastructure has come up in Arunachal Pradesh's Upper Subansiri district, close to the Line of Actual Control in the area. The territory on which the village has been built was under Chinese control since the late 1950s.

Reports citing sources in the defence establishment have said that the area was lost to China in a clash in 1959, called the Longju incident.

The Longju clash took place in August 1959, only months after the Dalai Lama fled Lhasa fearing a Communist crackdown and reached India.

Retired Major Generals GG Dwivedi and PJS Sandhu have given a brief account of the Longju incident in their book 1962 War — The Unknown Battles: Operations in Subansiri and Siang Frontier Divisions.

According to the authors of the book, the Chinese considered the Shannan Region of Tibet, which abuts the part of Arunachal where the new village has come up, "to be the hotbed of Tibetan reactionaries".

"This view seems to have been further reinforced by the fact that the Dalai Lama escaped to India through this region. The traditional routes from Lhasa to Tawang and beyond also pass through Shannan Region of Tibet. Shannan Region is considered extremely important by China. It is located southeast of Lhasa and is considered a gateway to erstwhile NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh)," they write in the book.

"This upset the Chinese authorities a great deal as they felt that the rebellion had been instigated by India and was aimed at securing Independence for Tibet," the authors add.

The Chinese set up a post in Tibet's Migyitun, not far from Longju, where an Indian border post manned by the Assam Rifles existed.

On 23 June 1959, less than three months after the Dalai Lama's arrival in India, the Foreign Office of China handed over a note to the Indian Counsellor in Peking (now Beijing) accusing India of "intrusion and occupation of Migyitun, Samgar Sanpo and other places in the Tibet region of China and their collusion with the Tibetan rebel bandits".

"...the Migyitun area in the south eastern part of the Tibetan region of China was intruded, shelled (and) occupied by over 200 Indian troops. These Indian troops, equipped with radio stations and weapons of various types, were building military work around Migyitun," the note read.

In its response three days later, the Indian government "emphatically repudiated any suggestion that their forces violated the international frontier" and said that the areas mentioned in China's note are located "within Chinese territory in Tibet".

"The nearest outpost which the Government of India have in this area is at Longju. This is south of Migyitun and within the Indian side of the traditional international border," the Indian note added.

However, despite India's recognition of Migyitun as Chinese territory, the Chinese attacked the Indian post in Longju on 25 August 1959. Chinese troops under the 2nd Company of 1st Regiment of Shannan Military Sub Command attacked personnel of 9 Assam Rifles occupying the Indian post at Longju, Major Generals Dwivedi and Sandhu write in their book.

The Chinese opened fire on an Indian forward picket of 12 soldiers. The Indian soldiers were later arrested by the Chinese forces, although eight of them managed to escape somehow. This was followed up by an attack on the Indian outpost at Longju by a Chinese detachment.

The Chinese forces outflanked the Indian outpost and opened fired on it from a distance of about 800 yards, India said in its protest note handed over by the Indian Ambassador to the Chinese Foreign Office on 28 August.

In its protest note, the Indian government stated that the Longju post was "about two miles south of the international border" and said that the objective of the Chinese attack on Longju was "clearly was to overpower our outpost which was well within our territory".

On 26 August, a day after the first attack, the Chines forces encircled the Indian post at Longju and opened heavy fire on it.

"Our personnel had therefore to abandon the post. We have no exact information as to their whereabouts," the 28 August note reads.

The Chinese note on the issue, which was handed over to the Indian Ambassador on 27 August (a day before the Indian note) had accused Indian forces of intrusion and firing.

"...on 25th August 1959, a group of Indian armed troops intruded into Chinese territory south of Migyitun and suddenly opened fire on Chinese frontier guards stationed at Migyitun discharging dozens of rounds of machine-gun and rifle shots. After the Chinese frontier guards fired back in self-defence. the above armed troops withdrew from that area," it said.

After this incident, India did not reoccupy the post in Longju.

"Assam Rifles did not reoccupy Longju and instead set up a post at Maja, 10 km South of Longju, on 29 Aug 1959," Dwivedi and Sandhu write, adding, "...after this incident, with effect from 27 Aug 1959, the defence of NEFA which till then was the responsibility of Intelligence Bureau under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Assam Rifles under the Ministry of External Affairs became the responsibility of the Indian Army."

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