The five youths from Arunachal Pradesh who had strayed across the border to the Chinese side earlier this month would be handed back to India on Saturday, informed union sports minister Kiren Rijiju.
“The Chinese PLA has confirmed to the Indian Army to hand over the youths from Arunachal Pradesh to our side. The handing over is likely to take place anytime tomorrow, i.e. 12 September, 2020 at a designated location,” Rijiju, who represents BJP from Arunachal West seat, tweeted on Friday evening.
The five youths from Tagin tribe, who used to work as porters for Indian Army, had gone missing on September 2 reportedly from Sera-7 on the Indian side of the McMohan line bifurcating Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet autonomous region (TAR) of China.
Following their disappearance, a brother of one of the youths posted on social media that they had been ‘abducted’ by PLA. The same accusation was made by Tapir Gao, BJP MP from Arunachal East and Congress MLA from Pasighat Ninong Ering in their tweets.
Responding to a hotline message sent by Indian Army, China’s People’s Liberation Army had informed on Tuesday that the youths have been found on their side and their condition was fine.
“By persistent efforts of India Army, 5 hunters of Upper Subansiri, who had crossed over LAC on 2 September, will finally return on 12 September. PLA will hand them over to India in Damai, China at 0930 hrs morning,” tweeted Lt Col Harsh Wardhan Pande, PRO (Defence), Tezpur, Assam on Friday evening.
The disappearance of the youths and the allegation of their ‘abduction’ by PLA had added to the heightened tension between both countries.
On Monday, China’s state affiliated Global Times tweeted quoting Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian: “China has never recognised so called ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, which is China’s south Tibet region, and we have no details to release yet about question on Indian Army sending message to PLA about five missing Indians in the region”.