The polling team that was assigned the duty of conducting re-elections in the Zara polling station of Kra Daadi district (Arunachal Pradesh) reportedly went missing on 23rd April. For almost a month their whereabouts remained unknown. The following story is an account of what happened between 23rd April and 18th May (when the team showed up at a village 3-days trek away from the previous rendezvous point) as told by the team’s security in-charge Tasi Darang to The Arunachal Times.
On 22nd April, Tasi Darang was assigned the duty of being the security in-charge for the polling team that was to conduct re-elections in the Zara polling station of the Kra Daadi district of western Arunachal Pradesh, one of the most remote places in the state. He, along with the rest of the team, was asked by the Superintendent of the Kra Daadi police station to take the helicopter from Koloriang to Pipsorang (Longding Koling H.Q.). From there they were to trek to the polling station of Zara. The team comprised of 42 personnel including Tasi.
“The Zara polling station is the farthest station in Kra Daadi district, from its headquarters in Palin. As the road from Pipsorang to Zara is a hilly track, we started early on the morning of 25th April for Zara, and it took us almost 9 hours on foot to reach our destination.” He said in his statement to the Arunachal Times.
On 27th April, the team conducted the re-polling after a discussion with the gaon burahs (heads of the village council) and the political parties. Almost all of the 492 people of the district casted their votes on the EVM machines. From there the team returned to Pipsorang and began waiting for the helicopter that was supposed to ferry them back to Koloriang.
Due to bad weather and heavy rainfall it became impossible for the helicopter to arrive at Pipsorang and the team was stranded. With limited resources the 42 people had to survive until the weather cleared and their ferry arrived. “Pipsorang does not have any basic amenities – no roads, no shops – and money doesn’t count there. One Pepsi bottle is Rs.500 and salt is Rs.250. There is no price regulation, or what one might call a proper shop… Our daily food consisted of boiled leafy vegetables without any other ingredient, or even salt or pepper.” Tasi said in his statement.
The only proper road that the team could have taken was the Tali and Parsi-Parlo road, but they received an intimation that there was a high security threat in the area since some sections of a political party had laid down an ambush for them so as to hijack the EVMs. This meant that they had to wait.
After waiting for more than 20 days and with no sign of the weather clearing up the team decided to take the route out of Pipsorang that went via Daporijo. It was a risky decision since that route is seldom used by the locals. Their plan was to cover the entire distance in 3 days, with Daporijo being the final destination on the third day.
After 24 days in Pipsorang, on 16th May, the team started their trek. “It was one of the toughest journeys I ever undertook in my life. We scaled many hills, which took approximately nine hours to climb, and another six to climb down. The hills were so high that you could look down at the clouds… We scaled eight such peaks on our way. It was an extremely difficult trek. If something happened, there was no one to help us. Besides, the rain continued pouring down, turning the tracks more muddy and slippery,” Tasi recounted in his statement.
The team walked and trekked for more than 20 hours every day, braving through the bad and continuously deteriorating weather, wild leeches, snakes, scorpions, and a dwindling supply of resources. Tasi recalled the struggle in his statement,“… huge leeches sucked on our blood… to say nothing of the many snakes and scorpions we encountered on the way… Many suffered cramps and knee joint issues… The whole scenario was a veritable hell. In desperation, we drank water from running streams without consideration of being infected… when we were running out of water, we collected rainwater dripping from wild banana leaves.”
Finally, the team managed to reach Jikke village in the Upper Subansiri district on 18th May from where they were taken to Daporijo in vehicles. On 20th May, they escorted the EVMs to the intermediary strong room in Ziro, successfully completing the mission.
This is a story of courage in the face of failing odds and unfailing dedication towards one’s duty. The Logical Indian salutes Tasi Darang and his team for their bravery, and acknowledges the countless others like them who are involved in conducting the general elections in India. It is because of these individuals that the biggest election in the world ran smoothly this year and was made into a successful event.