The Arunachal Pradesh police on Monday said the whereabouts of the five youths from a village in the northeastern state on the India-China border allegedly abducted by China's People's Liberation Army(PLA) are not yet known.
Engaged as porters and guides by the Indian army, the five villagers from the Nacho area of Upper Subansiri district who were part of a 7-member group which went for hunting in a jungle were reported missing by their families through social media last Friday.
China, meanwhile, brushed off concerns over the whereabouts of the five youths and needled India, saying it has never recognised the northeastern state which it claims is part of south Tibet.
"China's position on the east sector of the China-India boundary, or Zangnan (the southern part of China's Xizang (Tibet) ), is consistent and clear," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing, adding the Chinese government has never recognised the 'so-called Arunachal Pradesh'.
"I'm not aware of the situation you mentioned," the spokesperson said when asked about any updates about the missing Indian nationals.
The All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU) condemned the Chinese statement dubbing the state as part of 'South Tibet'.
'The people of the state outrightly (sic) reject the dubious statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry dubbing our state as part of 'South Tibet'. We strongly condemn such statements and advise the Chinese government to refrain from such notoriety,' the union said in a statement in Itanagar.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju took to Twitter on Sunday to say the Indian army has already sent a hotline message to the PLA establishment at the border point in Arunachal Pradesh and that a response is awaited.
The development comes at a time when the Indian army has enhanced its deployment along the 3,400 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in view of the tense border row between India and China in eastern Ladakh.
A senior official of the Arunachal Pradesh government said on Saturday the local police has launched a probe into the matter.
Nacho is the last administrative circle along the McMahon line and is around 120 km from the district headquarters Daporijo.
Two members from the group of youth which went for hunting in the jungle returned home and informed the families of the other five that they had been whisked away by the Chinese troops from Sera-7, an Army patrol zone located about 12 km further north of Nacho.
Tezpur-based Defence spokesman Lt Col Harshvarshan Pande said, "We have alerted our teams and are in constant touch with the civil administration."
The Superintendent of Police (SP) of Upper Subansiri said no one has lodged any formal complaint with the police or the armed forces that guard strategic areas along the LAC.
Earlier, talking about the incident, the SP Taru Gussar had said, "We came to know from local sources that five people belonging to the Tagin community were abducted by the PLA from a jungle near Nacho when they were out hunting".
"We are trying to verify the fact and are in touch with the Army since there have been past instances of the PLA capturing locals from the LAC and releasing them," the SP said.
Those allegedly kidnapped have been identified as Toch Singkam, Prasat Ringling, Dongtu Ebiya, Tanu Baker and Ngaru Diri.
AAPSU president Hawa Bagang and General Secretary Tabom Dai in a joint statement said, 'People of Arunachal Pradesh are proud Indians and staunch nationalists. We don't need any recognition or validation from a foreign entity.
'Instead of issuing misleading statements, the Chinese government should direct its armed forces to immediately release five civilians from Nacho area in Upper Subansiri district who, were abducted by PLA personnel recently.'
The AAPSU termed the incident as 'unfortunate' and called upon both the Centre and the state government to ensure early and safe release of the youths.
'The recent incident is not an isolated case as time and again the PLA has been repeatedly indulging in similar antics whereby innocent civilians living at the inhospitable border areas are taken captive at regular intervals,' the union said in its statement.
In March, a 21-year-old man was abducted by the PLA from Asapila sector near the McMahon line.
While his two friends managed to escape, Togley Sinkam was taken away at gunpoint, his family had said.
After 19 days in captivity, the youth was released by the Chinese army.