A tribal students’ organisation in Arunachal Pradesh has asked Pema Khandu’s BJP-ruled government to stop retired Assam Rifles personnel, settled in the State’s Changlang district after the Chinese attack in 1962, from contesting the panchayat polls.The reasons cited are: The ex-servicemen as non-APST (Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe) did not deserve to contest the panchayat polls in the first place and have been settled on land whose lease ends in 2020.The rural polls in Arunachal Pradesh was to have been announced after the term of the last panchayat ended on April 13. But it has been delayed due to a change in structure of the Panchayati Raj institution from three-tier to two-tier in the State.“In 1962, some 200 retired Assam Rifles personnel and their families were settled in Vijaynagar circle under Changlang district on land leased out to them. Despite being non-APST, they were unethically made eligible to contest the panchayat polls,” Ngwazosa Yobin, president of All Yobin Students’ Union (AYSU) said.The ex-servicemen, he said, should no longer be allowed to contest the rural polls since the lease on the land expires in a little more than two years from now.The Yobins, the predominant tribe in Vijaynagar area, call the place Daodi. Vijaynagar, a valley bordering Myanmar, was named after the son of Assam Rifles inspector general AS Guraya whose team had first reached the area in 1961.‘Against the rules’According to the AYSU, letting the ex-servicemen contest the rural polls is against the provisions of the 73rd Amendment related to Panchayati Raj as well as the Arunachal Pradesh Panchayati Raj Act of 1997 that are “basically for empowerment of local people.”But the ex-servicemen are deriving the benefits and rights meant for local people. The retired Assam Rifles settlers can contest the 17 Gram chairperson, three Anchal Samity member and one Anchal chairperson posts.The AYSU also fears being outnumbered by the ex-servicemen, whose number has increased to more than 2,000.The ex-uniformed settlers have trashed the AYSU’s contention. The Vijaynagar-based All Settlers’ Welfare Association, Gorkha Development Society and Gorkha Youth Committee have in a joint statement said there are separate panchayat voting systems for two groups — ex-servicemen and Yobins — on the basis of geographical variations and ethnicity.The three organisations claimed there is no competition within the two groups at the grassroots level. “Panchayati Raj was introduced in Vijaynagar in 1975, and ex-Assam Rifles man Lal Bir Gurung was the first Panch Pradhan of Vijaynagar Circle. He held the post till 1980, after which the Panchayati Raj system remained defunct across Arunachal Pradesh,” the statement said.No roadThe AYSU criticised the government for not constructing a road from Vijaynagar to Miao, the nearest well-connected town of Changlang district 157 km away. Miao is close to Arunachal Pradesh’s border with Assam.The road project was sanctioned in 2011 for an estimated ₹145 crore. But officials say it might never materialise, as much of the 157 km stretch is through the 1,985 sq km Namdapha National Park, a tiger reserve.“People of Vijaynagar still lack basic facilities such as electricity and hospital besides a road. As a result, people have to trek for four-five days to reach the nearest equipped town,” Ngwazosa Yobin said.Porters use the stretch through the tiger reserve to carry essential commodities on their heads. The porterage increases the prices of these commodities by 400-750%. For instance, a kilo of sugar costing ₹50 sells at ₹200, while a kilo of salt priced ₹20 is charged ₹150 at Vijaynagar.The only mode of communication for people of Vijaynagar with the world beyond is an infrequent Indian Air Force chopper service, which is dictated by weather conditions.