The “enchanted frontiers” that the North East has been likened to has — in recent recollection — been in the headlines for reasons that should be consigned to flames of obliteration. Sad memory such as the one that visited the region on 13 November 2021 when Col Viplav Tripathi, his wife, Anuja, and his eight-year-old son, Abeer, were assassinated in cold blood in Manipur’s Churachandpur district by Chinese chaperoned terrorists is one such distressing episode. The fact that Col Tripathi and his innocent family were so mercilessly gunned down by cruel marauders because of the officer’s crusade against drug running which the so-called insurgents have graduated to in the name of a sham struggle for sovereignty makes the occurrence even more heart-rending. After all, Col Tripathi was a role model for the local population — both in Mizoram where he was earlier posted and then in Manipur — for his tireless efforts to usher in sanity and wisdom to an expanse which is beginning to play into the hands of an alien agenda.
The 4 December 2021 incident in the Tiru area of Nagaland’s Mon district when some people were killed in a case of mistaken identity by the security forces is also perhaps one of the unpleasant aberrations in recent times, and one which has been genuinely regretted by the security forces. But the fact of the matter is that it was a freak incident and it was not premeditated in the manner in which Col Tripathi and his guiltless family were murdered. To that end, the episode must be treated by the populace as an anomaly, an incongruity that has been truly repented for by a force that has contributed not only to the security of the North East, but also its all-round welfare as well.
A colossal error would be made were the incident to be allowed to be hijacked by the anti-India forces which have been scavenging the expanse for just such an opportunity. Agencies such as the Ministry of State Security of the People’s Republic of China and the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan either in isolation or togetherness of agenda have been attempting to pin down the security forces to counter-insurgency operations and away from their primary border management duties. Indeed, these agencies would not let go of an opening to rabble rouse the peace-loving people of the North East into an anti-India course of action when aberrations come their way as it indeed did on 4 December 2021.
Such hostile agendas — as has been seen time and again in the past, in Assam, Kashmir and Manipur and elsewhere in India — will not allow an occasion to go by to harm the nation’s security. After all, their sole raison d’être is to bleed India with a “thousand cuts” and set a “hundred prairie fires” which would not only seek to thwart India’s growing prowess as a regional power but heap ignominy onto its security forces in order to mislead the nation’s population from the growth curve and upward mobility that the nation is all set to achieve.
Indeed, the incident that came to pass in Mon on 4 December 2021 is an ideal time for a stock-taking exercise. While it has been analysed that the episode was certainly — were one to paraphrase a timeless expression from Shakespeare — one which has always been “more honoured in the breach than in the observance”, the fact of the matter is that the security forces had definite and credible information that a terrorist outfit, namely the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang-Yung Aung) faction, was in the area with an objective to carry out subterfuge in the vicinity of Tiru in Nagaland’s Mon district. Therefore, an operation was planned by the security forces in the area in order to counter the nefarious designs of the anti-nationals.
L’affaire Mon took place because of the events including both the preparedness and the sense of duty with which the security forces were seeking to thwart a repeat of the 13 November sad episode when non-combatants by way of an innocent lady and a helpless child were purposely targeted by the merciless terror actors.
As a matter of fact (at the time of writing), the agent saboteurs have begun their reprehensible action. A 300-strong mob attacked and ransacked the Battalion HQs of the Assam Rifles in Mon setting ablaze not only the communication centre, the commanding officer’s quarters but also the office complex. But the restraint which has been exercised by the force speaks volumes about its leadership and the innate character which it has guided the officers and men of the force onto in this hour of crises. It was steadfastness and determination by the sentinels of peace in its very best. One wonders whether similar restraint would have been adopted with such admirable conduct were it to be in a theatre of internal disturbance outside the North East.
The Mon incident — if fair play has to be taken recourse to — must also take into account what took place on 3 and 4 December in Pherzawl district of Manipur when the Vang Battalion of the Assam Rifles was in the process of vacating their operating base in Parbung. In an unparalleled demonstration of support for the paramilitary force, the villagers of Parbung, including women, elders and children, came out in their numbers to request the Assam Rifles not to move out of the area. The force was considering vacation because insurgency had fallen to a low in the location.
Indeed, the local population even asked the chief minister of Manipur to request the Assam Rifles battalion to continue to stay.
This unprecedented event — it has been analysed — was not only because of the exceptional operational achievement and civic action policies of the Assam Rifles unit, especially by way of aiding the population by provision of every sort of support during the Covid-19 pandemic but also because a sense of bonhomie had grown between the inhabitants of Parbung and the Assam Rifles since 2006 when an officer of the Assam Rifles, Lt Col Rajeev Bakshi, made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty in the area. Indeed, a commemorative football match, the Lt Col Bakshi Memorial Football Tournament, is organised every year in Parbung to commemorate the manner in which officers and men of the Assam Rifles have dedicated their lives to and (in case of Col Viplav Tripathi) that of even their families for the people of the North East.
It is, therefore, in the fitness of things that the denizens of a region to which the Assam Rifles have set aside their entire existence for is truly termed as the “Friends of the North East”.
The writer is a conflict analyst and author of several best-selling books on security and strategy of the Northeast. Views expressed are personal.