By RS Jassal
This is with reference to the article by Wg Cdr G Baruah (Retd.) published in The Sangai Express issue of 02 Feb 12. It gave me an interesting reading. Maintaining internal security of a big Nation like India is a tedious problem since hyper-active powers, inimical to India from within & across are always at play to weaken its strength to retard progress, development and economic growth with an ultimate aim to dismember its territorial Integrity. Youths of the country need to be more sensitive to the National responsibility by distinctive weeding out of bad, coercive and sinister influences on them from such evil powers. If their energy is harnessed in a committed manner, India can become an exemplary a strong secular Nation of its own example in the world. Up to 1947, the country was a combination of scattered kingdoms, Princely States, fiefdoms commanded by Rajas, Maharajas, Nawabs, Nizams, Chogyals and Choudharys, segregated from each other due to lack of communications & infrastructural resources and above all divided by castes in high and low by religious fanaticism. India has got present shape cobbled from all sorts from within and from all directions known to the world by its perennial wisdom & boundaries.
My article is not a comment on Wg Cdr Baruah`s perception of AFSPA of what he wants and what he does not want, but a sincere effort to cast truth about three incidents he has raised in his write up so that readers can get true picture to compare whether AFSPA was responsible for those unfortunate incidents, concerning which Army had lost their Officers and men and yet earned displeasure of writer like him and media.
Tyre burst Incident at Kohima
As mentioned in the article that for a tyre burst Army troops in convoy opened blind & blatant fire along NH 39 (now NH-2) killing and injuring scores of people. At that time I was posted at Tuensang as Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster General (AA& QMG) with HQ 7 Sector Assam Rifles I was detailed to receive that particular Bn of Army at Jorhat on arrival and to guide them up to Mokokchung, where they were to be deployed for intensive operations against NSCN (IM) & (K) group both subsequent to the killing of Col Nair, the then CO of 16 Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) at New Chungtia road on his way back from Longkhan (Mokokchung). He had just conducted 10-15 days operations against NSCN (IM) & (K) groups since they had created havoc among local population and were involved in inter factional clashes but killing numerous civilians.
The truth is that the Army Bn (name of the unit withheld) had successfully done duties in Manipur & were on their way to Jorhat, in a convoy consisting of more than 30 vehicles. Tyre of a jeep/ Jonga had burst near DGP Police HQ (then under construction). Since vehicles were spread over more than a Km & half, from KTC (Kohima Town Committee) gate to Naga Hospital with more than five major curves in between, the sound of tyre burst reverberated so much in echo that it sounded like explosion of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). And Kohima also used to be frequented by NSCN groups as was Longkham area. The Officer in the rear echelon immediately fired two rounds of two inch Mortar into a nullah dividing the AR complex and Accountant General`s office where there was no population. Forget about killing, not even a single civilian was injured in the said incident. Shri SC Jamir, then CM was present in his home cum office complex. He immediately contacted GOC 3 Corps on his hot line. To avoid further confusion, the Bn was ordered into stand still mode by GOC 3 Corps and was concentrated in Assam Rifle Complex. The Bn was withheld at Kohima for three to four days. The Court of Inquiry was carried out and based on the above facts; the Bn was absolved of any blame & allowed to move to Jorhat thereafter.
Stray Firing Incident at Mokokchung
Prior to Kohima incident, 14-15 days operation of 16 MLI was concluded in area Longkham where village khels were divided over 50:50 support to UG gps (both factions). There was no cease fire at that time. Col Nair, then CO of the Bn was entrusted to deal with both factions. He warned both the warring factions of serious consequences if they did not stop their firefight. He was successful in stopping the daily routine of firing and village authorities also agreed not to allow entry of UGs into their village. A Barakhana with village elders was organized, so there was no indication of NSCN (IM) annoyance with the CO. He was to move back ahead of convoy to Jorhat to receive his wife who was to join him same day for a week or so. The Jonga in which he was traveling was ambushed along with other two vehicles as OP Monsoon which was launched by NSCN (IM) was still not called off by them. The Officer got killed instantaneously. Later a letter of apology was sent by NSCN (IM) to the wife of slain Late Col Nair. The Battalion (of Kohima incident) was to move to area Mokokchung to launch operations in area Longkhan & South of Khonsa as mentioned above.
See the tragedy. Lt Col Chengappa, the Second in Command of Maratha Light Infantry Bn with one company was left behind at Mokokchung, with Assam Rifles, to wait for Kohima Bn (temporarily under detention) to be relieved. A sudden face to face firing started between both NSCN factions in main Market, 200 ft away from police round about (Dr. Imkongliba Square). Lt Col Chengappa rushed with his troops to control the situation. A stray flying bullet hit the Officer and unfortunately he died on the spot. During this firing by the groups some bullets hit a barrel of petrol/diesel stocked in a shop, which caught fire and enflamed 12-14 other cloth shops too in a row & reduced all to ashes. Two civilians from a nearby village who had come for shopping were also caught in a shop with shutter down and not knowing how to extricate themselves, were burnt to death. There was no incident of rape. Live bullets were flying for a few minutes not knowing from which directions, UGs disappeared into their dens. Army/AR troops stayed behind to control the situation, swallowing the grief of loss of their Officer and to inhale all possible winds of dis-affectation from all sides. The incident was in the news on AIR Radio/DD the same evening. It was a scene of confusion of the highest order where an Army Officer lost his life while bringing faction tiraders under control.
A Parliamentary team consisting of eight Members of Parliament (MsP) arrived within 2 days in Mokokchung first ever in the history of counter insurgency in NE, who studied each and every aspect minutely & absolved SFs of any fault. UGs were blamed, and as such they are always above law, so case was closed. And that was Assembly Constituency of CM himself.
Napalm Bomb incident of Mizoram
Wg Cdr Baruah has claimed throwing of Napalm bombs in Mizoram by the Army. I have checked up with all possible Defence sources and it is confirmed that India does not possess Napalm bombs in its combat arsenals. Some helicopters are fitted with special machine guns for firing bullets into areas where foot soldiers are not able to reach/operate and where militants have taken full control of the area or security forces camp/post is under siege. And also to provide air cover to VVIP aircraft while on board. There are some places in Mizoram like Farkawn, where memorials of Army Infantry Company(s) exist of complete company strength with JCOs & Offrs, annihilated by MNF militants overnight. In such situation if strafing was done, I have no knowledge, but never any napalm bomb was thrown.
There was another event of even bigger magnitude created by FGN/NNC Army at Mellury (the Naga Hills now Nagaland) in 1957 when late V. Krishna Menon was Defense Minister. Assam Rifles Wing HQ plus one Platoon post was under siege for 10-12 days and Air Force Dakota was sent for dropping aid in rations/medicines was shot at by Naga Army under SS Gen Zuheto Sema and SS Lt Col Kaito Sema grounding it about two kms or so away from the post. The whole Nation came to stand to. Menon cut short his visit to Ladakh, held emergency meeting same evening with three Chiefs and had to make a statement in the Parliament next day. Then AVM Sondhi, AOC-in-C Eastern Air Comd flew a Dakota himself with medicines, water & ammunitions and delivered with low flying over the post after two abortive flights. Even under these circumstances No bomb was thrown in the suburbs of post. The Defence Forces have well laid battle doctrines for operating within own country, within own insurgents/ militants, whatever the provocation may be.
Tough Times – Truth Vs Lie
At times, Armed Forces in uniform have to face utter disgusting environment in most unfavorable terrains, yet under oaths taken on passing out, officers & men keep nations IZZAT above self always. They sacrifice their lives without grudge. To them Nation is first, rest afterwards.
Fight by interested groups against AFSPA is alright but must not hurl disgrace to the finest Army of the World as Wing Commander G Baruah has attempted to do. I really feel sorry for such people who feed concocted information to the readers without verifying. He should know who are the components of the Forces – all are Indians from within four corners. AFSPA whether stays or withdraws, amended or modified, used with human face or iron fist is all Political & Administrative expediency BUT how these three incidents have been projected as an resultant of AFSPA is incomprehensible! I am clear in my belief that AFSPA is not difficult to remove because that is the state decision. Withdraw the Army, AFSPA rolls back. How can you perceive Armed Forces on Internal Security duties fighting, against well armed uniformed militants with sophisticated weapons, with gun in one hand and the second hand tied at the back? So measures like fast unto death, holding `Inter Regional Rallies
` and marches across the country cannot achieve any tangible results. Mis – users of AFSPA have been punished under law and will continue to be punished in future also. Wherever it has not been done, must have been due to evidential lacunae.