When Khandu charmed jawans of Maratha Light Infantry in Tawang

Miles away from the North-East, a retired army officer here recalled with misty eyes his association with the late Arunachal Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu.

Last Updated: May 07, 2011, 10:34 AM IST

Pune: Miles away from the North-East, a
retired army officer here recalled with misty eyes his
association with the late Arunachal Chief Minister Dorjee
Khandu who, even as a local in Tawang, had endeared himself to
the servicemen engaged in construction of a road in the border
areas with his helping spirit and human qualities.
Reminiscing his stint in the North East where he
commanded the 22 Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) in 1983-84 and
met for the first time Dorjee who was just a local leader
those days, Colonel (Retd) Sambhaji Patil, said "he came
across as one of the finest human beings" in the difficult
terrain as he mobilised all the support needed to complete the
task on our hand.

"My unit (MLI) was entrusted with the task of
constructing the road from Tawang to the border areas to
facilitate the movement of ammuniton. It was a trecherous
terrain and the job would not have been completed without the
local support to the armymen," Patil said talking to PTI.

He said "Khandu used to be a daily visitor to our unit
asking and offering whatever help and support we needed in the
challenging job undertaken by us. When the construction work
of the 2.5 km road was completed successfully, this friendly
local in a heartening gesture on behalf of the population,
organised a party for us to mark the occasion."
"Going out of the way, Khandu even offered us a cash
prize to acknowledge and applaud the strenuous work, which we
politely refused. We instead requested him to instal a statue
of a Maratha solider to commemorate the work done by MLI unit
which he arranged to get done within two month`s time," Patil

Fondly called the "laughing Buddha" by the people, he
remained the same friendly and down to earth man even after
becoming the Chief Minster of Arunachal, Patil--- who had
retired in the interim--said, recalling a telephone call from
Khandu asking him for a short meeting in Delhi in 2009.

"We met over a cup of tea and in the talk we had, I asked
him whether a statue of Maratha warrior king Shivaji Maharaj
could be built on the road constructed by the 22 MLI as a
source of inspiration and he readily agreed," he added.

Elaborating on Khandu`s rapport with the army unit, Patil
said he had been trained in the military intelligence branch
in Belgaum and had a brief stint as an "attachment" to MLI
unit which was stationed there.

When the statue of Shivaji Maharaj was installed on the
Tawang road which linked Arunachal with broder area, Khandu
who attended the unveiling ceremony, surprised everyone when
he sang a Marathi song " Mard Amhi Marathe khare......" (We,
Marathas are the true warriors...), an inspirational verse of
the Maratha Light Infantry (MLI), said Patil, adding that the
late Chief Minister played a pivotal role in binding the North
Eastern region with rest of the country in national