China’s claim to Tawang is on the grounds that Tawang was once a province of Tibet and therefore now a part of China. The Monpa people originally from Tibet, form majority of Tawang’s population. It is surprising, but Tawang was once a prosperous province of Tibet. It supplied most of the food in the region and made up a third of Tibet’s economy. Today, most food items are imported from Tezpur or Silguri.
Tawang came to be known as an important place for Buddhists after the 6th Dalai Lama was chosen from a gompa in Tawang. When the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet in 1959, he first came to Tawang before leaving for Tezpur and finally to Dharasamla. The importance of Tawang as a religious place for Buddhists cannot be ignored.
Tawang is blocked on all sides by mountains and difficult to navigate. Helicopters are an easy way of transportation, but this service has been stopped after 2 helicopters crashed within a short span. The then Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorji Khandu was killed in one of those crashes. Their bodies were found four days later. The chopper took off from Tawang, but was caught in bad weather at a place between Kyela and Lobothang. The chopper was at an altitude of around 4000m, flying over an impenetrable forest. Soon after, overrun by dangerous mountains and unpredictable weather, chopper services were shut down.
As someone rightly said, entering Tawang was like entering heaven- a new world. The place has a distinct character of its own and has an old soul. The more you come to know about Tawang, the more you stand in awe of this valley, which has been the reason of discord between India and China.