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My visit to Menchuka was not planned this time but was a sudden reaction to the event going on in Guru Nanak Taposthan, Pemoshubu, Menchuka. An officer, Lt. Col. Suminder Singh (posted at Segang; the place where I was also posted once) sent an SOS message through Sardar Yadvinder Singh in-charge Gurdwara Chungthang/ Gurdongmar. The message relayed that under the pressure from local MLA, who was speaker in Arunachal Pradesh, Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been removed from the main Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan and shifted to the adjoining place. He was claiming it to be a Buddhist place of Padmasambhava and not of Guru Nanak. Now his men are also pressing the Army to vacate the land of adjoining place or asking to pay for the land at the rate of 1-1/2 crore per acre. The adjoining land was 3 acres and 4-1/2 crores was a large sum which the Army refused to pay and the commander pressed for vacating that place too.

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I have a deep attachment to the place; this Gurdwara was researched and then built by me, and with the help of my troops, we served the place for about 2 years seeing through its development. It was around Jan 1985 when I was suddenly dropped in with my Gun Battery near Segang and I was told by the Segang Lama of Guru Nanak’s visit and meditation nearby at Pemoshubu. A Gurdwara with three rooms was built on the ground donated by the Segang Lama. My unit personnel and the Segang villagers under the Gaon Burha (Sarpanch) help complete three rooms at the site and we celebrated the date of Guru’s arrival at the place on 24 March 1986 and Vaisakhi of 1986 attended by all valley people in large numbers and also our soldiers.

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Details have been given in my book ‘Amazing travels of Guru Nanak’ published by SGPC and in an article Guru Nanak’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh which appeared in Sikh Review. This Gurdwara has remained as it is for 35 years without any such claim or any disturbance with the local lama regularly participating in all these functions. How could this problem now crop up?! It appeared to be an offshoot of the case at Gurudongmar which too, after 40 years, the local lamas removed Sri Guru Granth Sahib under the directions of the SDM who was a Tibetan Buddhist himself.

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We have been already fighting a court case of Gurudongmar under Act 25 of the constitution in Sikkim High Court since 2017 the year of removal Sri Guru Granth Sahib from the Gurdwara. This Gurdwara too was constructed in the nineteen eighties and I have been a member of committee fighting the case for four years now and the case seems to be nowhere near end. I was worried a lot that replacing Sri Guru Granth Sahib may cause a similar court case here as well. I immediately rang up Secretary General SGPC, Sardar Bhagwant Singh Sialka and President Sardar Manjinder Singh Sirsa both of whom were deeply involved with Gurudongmar case and in regular contact with me.

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Shiromani Committee made an enquiry committee consisting of Sardar Surjeet Singh Bhittewid, Sardar Bhagwant Singh Sialka, and this writer and asked us to proceed to Menchuka. Meanwhile frantic calls were being received from Lt. Col. Suminder Singh that pressure is building up to vacate the land immediately. It would amount to losing another historical site and a valid proof related to Guru Nanak’s visit to east would also be lost.

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I got a call from Sirsa ji that a three member team consisting of Sirsa ji, Jagdeep Singh Kahlon ji and PA of Sirsa Ji will be accompanying from Delhi. The plan was to first fly on 8 August to Dibrugarh and then to move to Passighat to board a helicopter to Menchuka. First requirement was to get Inner Line Permit for entry into Arunachal Pradesh. Menchuka was in Alo district hence the permit has to be obtained from DC Alo. I applied on net as the permit was to be available only on net. But it never came on net. I contacted S Pritam Singh of Gwahati for this who gave me the name of S. Balbir Singh Dibrugarh, the Vice President of Gurdwara. I contacted S. Balbir Singh who gave the name of Chanchal Singh Ghat of Passighat. Sardar Chanchal Singh was the president of Passighat Gurdwara. He was very helpful. He got the permit for four of us and some local persons as well. A two member team consisting of Sardar Sialka and Sardar Bhittewid were also to join. However, as I boarded the train from Ludhiana to Delhi, I got a message from Amritsar that Sardar Bhittewid who had to return from Srinagar could not return and Sardar Sialka too had another assignment hence they would not be able to accompany. Also Sardar Sirsa and his team got stuck up in their election hence showed their inability to join. However they had got my air reservation done up to Dibrugarh and back.

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Left alone, I boarded the flight from New Delhi on 8th August early at 5 AM reaching Dibrigarh at 8.10 AM. There a team of three from Dibrugarh led by S. Balbir Singh joined me and we started in SUV for Passighat where Sardar Chanchal Singh was also to join. The payment was to be shared among us. Crossing the new Brahmaputra’s long bridge and passing through small towns we reached Passighat around 11 AM.The family of S, Chanchal Singh was waiting for us with hot food, but also with the news that all direct bridges from Passighat to Alo were washed off and a long detour through Inkiong would have to be taken.

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There was no alternative. We tried a short cut to reduce time but the route was too dangerous; full of hurdles. There was no road for most of the journey; the bumpy tracks with deep pits filled with water due to continuous rain made our progress very slow. We reached Alo by 8 PM but as we were to enter there was a road block of fallen hillock which took around 3 hours to clear. Reaching at midnight and searching for our location in this unknown world at midnight without anyone guiding us was difficult but we managed reaching officers’ mess at 11 PM PM (after 14 hours continuously arduous travel). Mess Havildar was woken up who had reserved only one room for two as originally myself and S. Balbir Singh were to join but the remaining four joined possibly for having darshan of the Gurdwara of their own. It took time for clearing the matter and we got 3 more rooms.

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Remaining a few hours the night of Aug 9th was comfortable and we moved at 6 AM as we had to clear the road up to Tato before 9 AM. This portion of the road had lot of fallen debris which was to be cleared. For this the work started at 9 AM till 4 PM during which the traffic was closed. Earlier I had planned to meet the Brigade Commander of Alo Brigade which was taking care of Gurdwara Taposthan Pemoshubu, Menchuka and discuss with him. However, being so late at night, the matter could not be discussed that day. The journey to Menchuka was not that bad as the previous day but was long enough. Due to bumpy and broken road we were late for some minutes to clear off the debri prone area. We were struck up for an hour requesting the officer to clear us as we had an important work to complete. The officer relented, stopped the work and allowed to pass through this muddy-slippery patch. At Alo I was told that Alo has been bifurcated and a new district Shi Yomi has been created with headquarters at Tato. I visited him and explained to him the problem. He was very sympathetic. By 5 PM we reached Pemoshubu, Menchuka and found that the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan did not have Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

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Reinstallation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib

The Pathar Sahib had a photo of Padmasambhava and Bodhi flags all around. Sikh Nishan Sahib existed on one side of the Gurdwara building but another Bodhi Flag on a pole was placed on the other side like that of Nishan Sahib. I spoke to the Commanding Officer of 5 Para battalion as to why Sri Guru Granth Sahib was not in its original Gurdwara. He said it was removed because the local Buddhists were creating problem and putting pressure for its removal. I explained the situation and intention of those disturbing and putting pressure. The local MLA who was now a speaker of Arunachal Pradesh had visited Sri Amritsar some months ago and had met SGPC officials to remove Sri Guru Granth sahib from the place. He was not obliged by SGPC officials explaining that the Guru Nanak Taposthan is an old historic Gurdwara of Sikhs at the place visited by Guru Nanak where he had meditated upon. Hence the right place of Sri Guru Granth Sahib was Guru Nanak Taposthan and not elsewhere. Hence Sri Guru Granth Sahib should be placed back immediately to the original Gurdwara Guru Nanak Tapasthan touching Pathar Sahib. He asked his Granthi to do so. I along with Granthi and other individuals moved Sri Guru Granth Sahib to Sri Pathar Sahib (Guru Nanak Taposthan) Gurdwara. We held Rehras Sahib and did Sukh Asan of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at that very location and asked the soldiers to keep a guard there permanently for protection of the Gurdwara. I told the Commanding Officer of 5 Para battalion the same. Photographs of re-establishing Sri Guru Granth Sahib are attached at Annexure 1. Photos were taken at night without light since in Arunachal Pradesh sun sets off at about 4.30 PM and it had become pitch dark by then. There was no light available except that of a torch and a few mobiles in the lights of which these photographs were taken.

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Since it was already pitched dark and I had to stay at Menchuka 16 km away, I moved back, met the Commanding Officer of the Medium Regiment located close to Gurdwara Taposthan and later met Commanding Officer 5 Para battalion, the battalion responsible for maintaining Gurdwara Taposthan. He assured that in future he will not move Sri Guru Granth Sahib from the place, maintain sanctity and proper security of the place.

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The second problem told to me by Lt. Col. Suminder Singh who had joined me at Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan, was of the Gurdwara land being claimed by Mr Abe Onge who had written to the Deputy Commissioner for either getting the land vacated or making the compensation. The details of the land are as per the sketch below.

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The individual is claiming payment for the entire area consisting of 3 acres at very heavy costs, while the second portion of the Gurdwara called here as Museum complex is only in half an acre. The letter from the individual to the Deputy Commissioner, the sketch for the area for which the compensation is claimed and the forwarding letter from Deputy Commissioner Tato to Cdr Alo Bde are attached as annexure 2 to 4. The actual area is as marked in the sketch above.

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Compensation for Land

During my discussion with the Commanding Officer of 5 Para Bn, he agreed that he will settle the land price but the payment will have to be made by Sikh Institutions since army cannot spend any money for this. I contacted S Manjinder Singh Sirsa and SGPC officials about the payment money which they agreed to arrange. Since being too remote, tough hilly terrain in Army protected area close to the China Border and having no Sikh population in hundreds of miles it was not possible for any Sikh organization to maintain that. It was not possible for me as well to visit this place and help administering the place, the Commanding Officer recommended a Local Committee consisting of responsible for maintaining the Gurdwara as Chairman who should be aided by two officers from two other local regiments to manage the affairs. The Station Commander at Alo should be the Patron since he has the detailing power.

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During discussions it emerged that the local representatives of Segang village and the Deputy Commissioner in whose jurisdiction the Gurudwara was located should be included. Also two Sikh representatives one being the president of closest Gurdwara and a Sikh resident of Arunachal Pradesh should be included in the committee. I was to act as advisor of the Local Committee since I have been deeply involved with the Gurdwara setting up and maintenance since last 35 years. Finalisation of this committee should be done after discussions with Deputy Commissioner Tato and Station Commander Alo and approved and authenticated by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee to become an official body. I planned to discuss this matter further with DC Tato and Station Commander Alo.

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Since I had to leave early morning at 5 AM to Alo, I could not go back 16 kms to Gurdwara to photographs during day. A delay for even half an hour would have cost me another day due to restricted move timings where 9 AM to 1 AM the work on clearing the roads goes on. It opens for one hour during their lunch time from 1 to 2 PM. We were required to be before 9 AM at the first clearing and at 1 PM at the second clearing. It was heavily raining and we could not take risk for a delay for even half or one hour. I had to meet the Deputy Commissioner at Tato on the route also which I met. We started early and covering the hazardous journey we were able to reach Alo at 2 PM. Brigade Cdr Alo was available at 5.30 PM hence we had to stay for the night at Alo itself.

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Meanwhile I got a calls from Lt. Col. Saminder Singh and CO 5 Para saying that Mr Onge the person claiming heavy compensation was contacted. He was demanding more than one crore per acre i.e., more than 3 crores for the entire land. His demand is heavy because the local people want to fleece the Army. I asked him if we tell him that Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee will be paying for it and not the Army, he again said that from any organisation Onge would be adamant on claiming this much amount as he is a man of MLA and knows it to be a big institution. He suggested that the only way is that “You say that since ‘I have built this Gurdwara I will have to pay for the land. I can pay only the reasonable amount. This is how we can reduce costs’.” I discussed this matter with the dealing officer Col Q Major Rattan of the Alo Bde Hq. He also agreed on this view point.

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I met the Station Commander Alo at 5.30 PM and apprised him of the entire situation. I requested him to arrange 2-3 more Sikh soldiers and ensure strict security and sanctity of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan Sahib at its original place touching Pathar Sahib to which he agreed. As regards the proposal for purchase of land, he agreed to the solution put by his CO and the staff. We moved early at 6 AM on 11 Aug 2021 from Alo and reached Dibrugarh at 8.30 PM after 14 and half hour’s drive. During our return journey, Mr Onge contacted me on phone and put forward his claim. I told him that he cannot claim for the ownership of the land which was gifted to the Gurdwara 36 years before. He said he has been legally allotted the Museum Complex land and asked for the price for the entire land. I explained to him that the of the Gurdwara is only in half acre and I can pay him for this only if he can prove his legal claim and if the claim is reasonable i.e., DC rate. I also told him that I have already met DC and have told him this and that I will be handing over the land to the Trust headed by the DC and the Station Commander Alo. Hence I asked him to quote the reasonable price. He said he will speak to DC and tell about the compensation required. He has not spoken thereafter.

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I immediately shot off a WhatsApp message to DC who moved to Menchuka and confirmed receipt of my message. I am waiting for the result since there is no communication with him thereafter. I apprised the Bde Commander and the Bde staff at Alo about this and asked CO 5 Para Bn to meet DC. But due to lack of communication I am yet to know further about it.

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Having reached Dibrugarh through a long circuitous route through Inkiyong and taking about 15 hours instead of 3 hours by normal route, I stayed in a hotel since Gurdwara at Dibrugarh did not have arrangements for stay of visitors as was told to me by the Vice President of the Gurdwara.

Next day early morning I got the flight at 8.15 AM and reached Dehli and thereafter by train was at Ludhiana by evening. I forwarded the report to the Secretary SGPC who held a meeting a few days later. I projected the requirement of SGPC approved Local Committee and payments for the land.

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The recommended Local Committee organisation is attached at appendix D below.
Following points have to be kept in mind:
1. Arunachal Pradesh is restricted area and inner line permit is needed to go to Menchuka which may take 4-5 days. One has to apply on line.
2. The roads and bridges are washed off during rains and it takes minimum 2 days and that too travelling for 12 to 14 hours each day to reach there. Better period to visit Menchuka is April-May and September-October
3. The best solution to reach Mecnhuka is to go by air to Gwahati, i.e., move to Itananager by helicopter and taking another helicopter from there to Menchuka. Alternatively one can board train direct to Itanagar from Delhi or to Dibrugarh by air, stay for night move to Passighat and take a helicopter to Menchuka. The helicopter goes only on Saturdays and Mondays. Flight Route is Itanagar-Passighat-Along-Menchika and back by same route. Hence it is better to board on Saturday stay on Saturday and Sunday night at Menchuka and move back on Monday by helicopter to Passighat or Itanagar.
4. It is two days journey from Mechuka and is approachable only in Apri-May and September-October. For other periods communication with Menchuka from Dibrugarh does not exist or is negligible.

In view of this, the following was recommended:

1. Gurdwara Taposthan Pemoshubu, Menchuka should be allowed to be run under a local committee as recommended in Apprendix D.
2. Payments for the land with Gurdwara may have to be made for which intense negotiations have to be made. Some political pressure will also be needed to get reasonable rates.
3. For further assessment, the committee ordered by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee may visit the place and give further recommendations. I did not make any travel claims since air tickets were arranged by Delhi Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the SUV was arranged with the help of member of Dibrugarh Gurdwara Committee for which we shared the payments. Pains taken by S. Bhagwant Singh Sialka, S Dhami, S. Manjinder singh Sirsa, S. Balbir Singh and S. Chanchal Singh need special mention and I am grateful to them. Since for applying for an Inner Line Permit, a local address is needed S Chanchal Singh, Secretary Gurdwara Singh Sabha Passighat, Arunachal Pradesh has agreed that his name could be used for Arunachal address.

Appendix D
This committee will work under the SGPC appointed Committee consisting of General Secretary Sialka ji and two other members, Sardar Bhittewadh ji and Dr Dalvinder Singh Grewal.
Local Committee - Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan, Pemoshubu-Segang, Menchuka, District Tato, Arunachal Pradesh, India
A local Committee for Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan Pemoshubu-Segang, Menchuka, District Shi Yomi at Tato, Arunachal Pradesh, India is hereby formed by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee for control and conduct of the functioning of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan
Patrons: Station Commander, Alo, Arunachal Pradesh & Deputy Commissioner, Shi Yomi at Tato
Chairman: Commanding Officer of the regiment appointed by Station Commander, Alo
Assisting Members:
1. One member each from two major regiments in Menchuka
2. Gaon Burha Segang
3. Lama Segang
4. President of Local Sikh Body
5. A Sikh Member from among Arunachal Sikhs
Representative of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as advisor to local Committee:
Col Dr Dalvinder Singh Grewal
Responsibilities:
Station Commander Alo:
1. To oversee, guide, direct the control and conduct of the of the Army members of Gurdwara committee for smooth functioning of the Gurdwara.
2. To nominate the chairman and Army members of the committee Deputy Commissioner, Shi Yomi at Tato
1. To guide, control and oversee conduct of Civil members of Gurdwara Committee for smooth functioning of the Gurdwara.
2. To Nominate the Civil members as advised by the Advisor Chairman
1. To be overall in-charge of the Gurdwara Committee functioning at ground level.
2. To direct the control and conduct of the Gurdwara.
3. Form the conduct team for the Gurdwara in consultation with the patrons and advisor
4. Ensure smooth and orderly functioning of the Gurdwara maintaining the religious system.
5. Any other function necessitated for the uplift and development of the Gurdwara
Assisting Members
Army Members
1 To be appointed by Station Commander, Alo
2 To aid and assist the Chairman in smooth functioning of the Gurdwara
Civil Members
1. Gaon Bura, Segang: (a) To aid and assist Chairman Local Committee in smooth running of Guru Nanak Taposthan Menchuka and (b) To help solve the local administrative problems of the Gurdwara under the direction of DC Shi Yomi at Tato.
2. Lama Segang: (a) To act as local Buddhist representative (b) to help maintain relationship between Buddhist and Sikh community. (c) to help in common functions of the two in the local area.
3. President Local Sikh Body (a) To oversee the Gurmat Rehat Maryada of the Gurdwara (b) assist and aid the local committee in smooth functioning of the Gurdwara (c) to provide/assist in financial help to gurdwara when needed (d) to organise visits of Sikh visitors to the gurdwara and help complete the formalities for entry into Arunachal Pradesh under the direction and in consultation with DC Shi Yomi at Tato
4. Sikh from Arunachal Pardesh : (a) To help solve any local problems to the Gurdwara under the direction of DC Shi Yomi at Tato (b) To act as liaison between local people, District administration, Advisor and President of Sikh Body Representative cum Advisor: (a). Represent Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sri Amritsar. (b). Recommend nomination of Civilians members (c) Advise the local committee on Maryada and conduct of religious affairs of the Gurdwara (d) provide assistance in smooth functioning of Gurdwara (d) Keep Shiromani Committee informed of all matter pertaining to Gurdwara Guru Nanak Taposthan, Pemoshubu-Segang.

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