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History of Arunachal Pradesh

     The earliest references to Arunachal are found in the era of Mahabharata, Ramayana and other Vedic legends. Several characters from the region, such as Princess Rukmini, King Bhismaka and Lord Parashuram were referred to as people from the region in the Mahabharata. According to traditional accounts Princess Rukmini birth in the family of Bhismaka. (Mahabharata Adi 67.156). Rukmini was the daughter of King Bhismaka of Kundil in Upper Assam (now Sadia). Krishna fought against king Bhismaka in his bid to marry Bhismaka's daughter Rukmini. Bhismaka was the vassal of King Jarasandha of Magadha. The Dibang Valley lying to the extreme north of the state is close to the Chinese border. It was the ancient kingdom of Bhismaka where Rukmini was given in marriage to Lord Krishna. Malinithan a small town has strong historical links with Lord Krishna and his consort Rukmini. Parashuram was born to saint Jamadagni and Rebuka in Lohit valley and Parshuram Kund in Lohit district, which is believed to be the lake where Parshuram washed away all his sins.

The first ancestors of the tribal groups migrated from Tibet during the prehistoric period, and were joined by Thai-Burmese counterparts later. Except for the northwestern parts of the state, little is known about the history of Arunachal Pradesh, although the Adi tribe had legendary knowledge of the history. Recorded history was only available in the Ahom chronicles during the 16th century. The tribal Monpa and Sherdukpen do keep historical records of the existence of local chiefdoms in the northwest as well. Northwestern parts of this area came under the control of the Monpa kingdom of Monyul, which flourished between 500 B.C. and 600 A.D. This region then came under the loose control of Tibet and Bhutan, especially in the Northern areas. The remaining parts of the state, especially those bordering Myanmar, came under the control of the Ahom and the Assamese until the annexation of India by the British in 1858.

Recent excavations of ruins of Hindu temples such as the 14th Malinithan at the foot of the Siang hills in West Siang shed new light on the ancient history of Arunachal Pradesh. Paintings of the Hindu gods and altars remained untouched for many years. They attracted many local pilgrims. Another notable heritage site, Bhismaknagar, suggested that the Idu Mishmi had a local civilisation. The third heritage site, the 400-year-old Tawang monastery in the Tawang district, also provides historical evidence of the Buddhist tribal peoples. Historically, the area had a close relationship with Tibetan people and Tibetan culture, for example the sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso was born in Tawang.

In 1913-14 British administrator, Sir Henry McMahon, drew up the 550 mile (890 km) McMahon Line as the border between British India and Tibet during the Simla Conference, as Britain sought to advance its line of control and establish buffer zones around its colony in South Asia. The Tibetan and British representatives at the conference agreed to the line, which ceded Tawang and other Tibetan areas to the imperial British Empire; however the Chinese representative refused to accept the line. The Chinese position since then has been that since China was sovereign over Tibet, the line was invalid without Chinese agreement. Furthermore, by refusing to sign the Simla documents, the Chinese Government had escaped according any recognition to the validity of the McMahon Line.

For the first two decades after the Simla Conference, the Survey of India did not show the McMahon Line as the border between British India and Tibet either; only in 1937 did they publish a map showing it as the official boundary; in 1938 the Survey of India published a map showing Tawang as a part of Tibet. In 1944, Britain established administrations in the area, from Dirang Dzong in the west to Walong in the east. Tibet, however, altered its position on the McMahon Line in late 1947 when the Tibetan government wrote a note presented to the newly independent Indian Ministry of External Affairs laying claims to Tibetan districts south of the McMahon Line. The situation developed further as India became independent and the People's Republic of China was established in the late 1940s: with the PRC poised to take over Tibet, India unilaterally declared the McMahon Line to be the boundary in November 1950, and militarily forced the Tibetan administration out of the Tawang area in 1951, despite protests by the Tibetans. The PRC has not recognized the McMahon Line since. (In 1959, a suppressed Tibetan uprising resulted in PRC's abolition of Tibet's self-ruling government headed by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, where he continues to lead the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Maps published by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile now show the McMahon Line as the southern border of Tibet.)

The NEFA (North East Frontier Agency) was created in 1954. The issue was quiet during the next decade or so of cordial Sino-Indian relations, but erupted again during the Sino-Indian War of 1962. The cause of the escalation into war is still disputed by both Chinese and Indian sources. During the war in 1962, the PRC captured most of the NEFA. However, China soon declared victory and voluntarily withdrew back to the McMahon Line and returned Indian prisoners of war in 1963. The war has resulted in the termination of barter trade with Tibet, although in 2007 the state government has shown signs to resume barter trade with Tibet.

Of late, Arunachal Pradesh faces threat from resistance groups, notably the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN), who were believed to have base camps in the districts of Changlang and Tirap. There were occasional reports of these groups harassing the local people.
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