8 Aug 2016

Screwing Queen’s ‘E’ – In Brief


During my final 3 yrs in uniform at Air HQ, my job was to daily write file noting and briefs, technical things, without any scope for humour. After all, what humour can you add in  E=MC2.  None of my superiors ever read my briefs, they already knew all about  E=MC2. If I had to write briefs that had to be sent to MoD, sycophancy was made to drip like honey from  E=MC2 . But the lowly amoeba ‘Desk Officer’ Mr Yashpal, his job in MoD was to act like a postal employee, franking with self-inking rubber stamp ‘Bugger Off’, right on top of my dripping honey.  So it was a complete waste of my time. Nevertheless, that was my job, and hence I persevered. In retrospect, it was very stupid of me to be conscientious, when none wanted me to be so !!.

Once in a while I had to write briefs for the CAS too, routed through DASR, ACAS (Plans), DCAS to the Chief, all of whom took great pains to proofread and correct Queen’s ‘E’.  The illustrious and most affable CAS was very fond of me, but not my W-front armour piercing contact fused briefs !!. Due to his macho Alpha male perception, the CAS would not wear specs or contacts. He was blind as a bat (short sight, myopia). Also, as is common with all those who pip past Maj Gen (& equivalents), while they are still  in uniform, the CAS perhaps had mild ‘dyslexia’ (difficulty in reading and comprehending anything, other than his own perception). Double trouble for me, especially when I had to write highly complex technical briefs, E=MC2 type with no sense of humour.

Once I was briefed by my equally conscientious venerable boss, for two hours, and asked to write a brief for CAS on who he should meet, what he must do, and technology that he must look out for during his forthcoming visit to Farnborough air show. Dutifully I sent around a note to  all directorates in Air HQ, including the ‘Camp Cmdt’ my course mate Dayalu, asking for their views, especially latest technology in office chairs. I didn’t have a chair and used to sit on piled up 4” thick volumes of MTNL telephone directory.

When I compiled every one’s views,  it became a 1000  pages encyclopaedia, which I knew the chief will not read. So I did precis writing, again and again to cut it short, even taking out articles, prepositions, verbs, pronouns and everything else in ‘Wren & Martin’ that gives Queen of England an orgasm. Finally, I even tried writing it like it is done in Army HQ to help morons to write English without spelling mistakes (like ‘rece’ for reconnaissance, ‘laz’ for liaison,  ‘manv’ for manoeuvre, ‘rend’ for rendezvous etc). After much strenuous constipation, I produced a masterpiece, condensing 1000 to about 50  pages without missing any points from Tom, Dick or Dayalu, especially my neighbour in Prince’s Park, Dayalu and his charming wife Rita.


All of this ‘Shakespearian’ effort took time and the Chief was to leave the same night. Reason why I decided to use the NH bypass circular road around my bosses, the DASR, ACAS (Plans) and DCAS, short cut through the Staff Officer’s room, sneak in through the CAS’s toilet.  Very proudly I went directly to the Chief, like the ‘Roman Centurion Fuckusall’ going to meet Caesar. I was hoping that the Chief on his return from Farnborough would at least sanction a R&D technology demonstrator office chair, that looked like an ejection seat, strongly recommended by the Camp Cmdt as long term replacement scheme for MTNL telephone directory to sit on in Air HQ.

  ‘What is it ?’, the Chief asked me with annoyance, because I  had caught him early morning, as soon as he sat down in his chair that did resemble an ejection seat.
‘A brief for you Sire’, I said humbly and respectfully. ‘It is about who you should meet, what you must do, and technology that you must look out for during your forthcoming visit to Farnborough air show’, I said witlessly, with no sign of tact. I have foot in the mouth decease.

The illustrious CAS hiccupped and very justly threw the report at me.
‘Go away, and don’t come back’, he commanded like King Solomon.

‘What happened ?’, my boss asked when I returned to  my throne of MTNL telephone directories, looking sad and forlorn.
‘Chief didn’t like the brief’, I said tactfully, rather unusual for me.
‘Do it again’, my  boss ordered. ‘Do it the way chief likes it, we have to have a note in the file that we have briefed the Chief’, he said and vanished. My boss was a stickler for propriety and file noting, recorded for the benefit of C&AG as well as postirity.

So I sat down and typed, ‘Bon Voyage’ on a single A4 size paper, Ariel 72 font and took it back  to the Chief, once again sneaking in through the toilet, lest the AA waylay me, as was his job. By then the Chief had drunk his tea, ate biscuits and gone for a pee. So he was not suffering from hypoglycaemia. He was in a good mood.

‘ What is it now ?’ he growled.
I put the single sheet of brief in front of him without saying tactless things.
He picked it up, held it at arm’s length and squinted at it.
He then got up from his ejection seat, grabbed my hand and shook it.
‘This is how a brief must be made for the Chief’, he gave me a compliment. ‘Do you want to come with me to Farnborough ?’, he asked very graciously.
‘No Sir’ I replied with a smile. It was a pleasure to please the fine chief, I was very proud to be his minion.
‘Why not ?’, he asked with a frown.
‘Sire, the British Mi-6 & SAS have shoot at sight orders to kill me, because I screw their Queen’s ‘E’ every time I write a brief’, I said, and ran off from the Chief’s office without looking back, this time through AA’s office. He didn’t waylay outbound traffic.

Finally when British-ers got fed up, their venerable High-Commissioner issued me a ‘De Marche, Tout De Suite’. Before they laid claim for me under ‘Indo-UK extradition treaty, in return for Mallaya’, I voluntarily marched out  of the IAF for the last time. Singlehanded I then went to war with the British, to teach ‘British-ers’ to learn to ‘ish-crew’ Queens ‘E’ without ‘Running Martins’, especially on the ‘Speak In Hinglish days’ in their House of Commons. It then became their acceptable parliamentary language, even to use Punjabi MC & BC once in a while. The latest ‘E’ dictionary defines the people of Britain as ‘British-ers’, as we say in India. I confess that I copied psy war tactics of Dr Goebbels. It took me two decades. But ‘British-ers’ and ‘English-ers’ are now ‘jusht loving it’, like the fraud Chicken Tikka Masala. They are now ‘sa-tanding and ish-crewing their Q’s E, ish-slowly, ish-slowly’.  I think that is why they voted ‘Brexit’, all of them want to exit Britain and migrate, come right back to India to rule !!

What a good’ it will be, to have a ‘Wise-Roy’ back on Raisina hill, instead of the ‘Han Jee’s with ‘Vices’.

Cyclic



25 Apr 2016

The ‘Talmud Scroll’ Wish Lists


My wife T (21) and I (28) started our serious married life in Chabua beginning Oct 1978 after an arranged marriage, one day honey moon on Mahabaleshwar beach, followed by one month Flood Relief operations in Calcutta  where T & I were housed in 5 star MLA quarters in Chowringhee to continue  honey mooning while I flew my pants off for flood relief, morning noon and night. It was a boon that my older sister then in Calcutta took charge of T . They went around Cal and had a ball while I earned my keep and let T spend it all in ‘New Market’ and gallivanting on Park Street.
 
Once we reached Chabua, it was a cultural shock for T.

We started with my bachelor’s room, the size of a toilet, with an oval aluminium mess tin and a spoon. The ‘mess tin’ was from my ‘camp  kit’, free issued by AF when I was commissioned eight years earlier. The rest of the camp kit, the kit bag, folding canvass cot with mosquito net and rods; they were the heirloom of Mohammad Ali, my exclusive Bangladeshi Jeeves for life, inherited on the first day when I joined 43 Sqn in Jorhat immediately after the 71 war. He was about 21 or 22 then, same age as T.

T & Ali hit it off from day one, mainly because he would regale her with never ending stories of my bachelor life and T was hell bent on hearing every word in the series of torrid stories. She said she wanted to get to know the man she married.  I was hoping to start with a clean slate and Ali was a strategic nuclear threat. He even offered to take T sightseeing on my mo-bike and introduce my old GFs. That is when I read the Riot Act, and threatened to chop off Ali’s balls.

Ali remained my Jeeves for 23 years, refusing to do anything unlawful which T ordered. He often quoted AF Act and AP 129 to T. He knew the law more than I did.  But between Ali and I there was no law, just exemplary loyalty arising from gratitude. He was a refugee with no family, except me. Perhaps reason why he believed that everything that I had was his too. My clothes including flying boots and flying overalls, Ray Ban, razor & after shave, mo-bike, music system… the works. I drew a line when I married, T was my personal property and he was to do Namaz in front of her five times a day. Ali was Bindas, never did Namaz, but he actually worshipped T, following her about like a Labrador puppy.

As a mighty F/L, I was considered a capitalist bachelor because I had T, Ali, a Java mo-bike, an Akai music system, and a quilt with a big cigarette burn in the centre. My pay was around Rs 450 including ‘Rs 75 as flying bounty’ for which I had to have a private insurance with minimum monthly premium of Rs 80. I had about Rs 5 in my bank, a shaving soap tin in Ali’s custody. T said with conviction, ‘it is enough and more, because you are a resourceful man’. My share of two boxes of chocolates and five tins of condensed milk every month, the flying rations to prevent ‘hypoglycaemia’, kept T happy, sugary and syrupy. I suffered only from hangovers, not hypoglycaemia .

Two large cast iron British army steel trunks with ‘Dowry’, essentials to  start a married life (pots & pans, a pressure cooker, bed sheets and so on, and some of the stupid presents that  we got during our wedding including a 2 feet high brass lamp), these were despatched from Madras to Chabua by goods train by my Rajput Rgt KCIO father-in-law. Our future chugged its way, at snail’s pace.

There were several good married friends living in ‘bashas’, and primates in bachelor quarters much like  a Zoo, who took good care of us. They ensured that we ate two meals a day for about three weeks. Then I took T to Chakabama, for two months, lived off the army while we continued to honey moon. On return, we would go to Chabua Rlwy Stn daily to enquire about our trunks, the ones with our heirloom. When it finally arrived after about four months journey, it  seemed heavier. We hauled them back to base gleefully in two rickshaws. When opened, one was full of stone aggregate (railway kind), the   other had a mile stone, ’50 miles Gaya’. It broke T’s heart, all that she had was ‘Gaya’.

Since there was no Araldite those days to mend broken hearts, I told T to sit and make a wish list, everything she wanted. I promised her that I would make good everything on that list.  After two weeks of very secretive activity, she excitedly produced her master piece, a roll about 2” wide and about 25’ long. She had torn ‘Legal’ sized paper into strips, stuck the strips together with goo made of boiled rice. It was her ‘Talmud Scroll’, in two parts, written in microscopic alphabets, in English.

The first part   ‘Mishnah’, the ‘must have’ started with a ‘Bajaj Mixie’. The second part ‘Gemara’, perspective plans for long term acquisitions, started with a Fridge, with a ‘2nd hand Car’ somewhere in the middle. It ended with a ‘House Of Our Own’. I fell down and hit my head on the empty steel trunks that had by now become a sofa cum dining set. When my head stopped bleeding and my heart beats reverted to normal, T gave me a choice. ‘Either be a Kartha (a doer) or change your name to Akartha (non doer), make good your promise if you are a Kartha’. She shook her bums and pushed off to the kitchen like a good woman. I lay there on the floor, cursing my father who didn’t name me an ‘Akartha’, which compelled me to go and be the ‘do and die’ type.

The ladies club in Chabua, who were adept at market survey, advised T that the first item on her Mishnah’ part of the Talmud Scroll, it was Rs 5 cheaper in Sadar Bazar in Delhi. ‘Damn Cheap’, T advised me in turn. After series of correspondence in free Pink Inlands (forces mail), authored by T but censored by me as Adjutant, my previous CO (late Jaya) in Air HQ  in Delhi was commissioned to procure a Bajaj Mixie from Sadar Bazar. It was air lifted by Comn Sqn aircraft under the PM’s seat, 43 Sqn Daks along with goats, and finally all by itself in a Mi-4 to Chabua.

At that time, T&I were staying in the adjacent 42 WEU mess, an empty zoo with only one primate, the mighty Godzilla, Pilot Officer Anjit Bose (with frequent visitor Peter George from Chabua Zoo). Both of them addressed me as ‘Big Brother’, but refused to call T as ‘Big Sister’. They called her nothing because she refused the offer to be called ‘Madam’.  ‘Aayyee, Madam is bad woman’, she said. It was young rascal Anjit who gave T her name as ’T’, as in ‘Abe Oh T’, though it made her mad. Anjit gave names to all. Poor Bisht and Yasmin in Dinjan, good friends of ours, were ‘Beauty & the Beast’. Yasmin, a lovely woman, was the beast. Behind my back rascal Anjit used to refer to me as ‘Big Brother Kirtar’, a habit which he still has.

For the inauguration of Bajaj’s Mixie, Anjit and Peter waited patiently for T to light a lamp, do ‘Aarti’, put soaked Dal into it to make Pakka (Dal) Vada. When T turned the Mixie on, it burst into flames. The motor got burnt.  I ran away.

I have no idea what Anjit did, perhaps tuned into Bajaj’s telephone in Gujarat, using 42 Wireless Experimental Unit’s eve’s dropping technology, sent hate telegrams using meteorology tele printer network, more hate mails through pink forces inland, whatever. After about 20 days, T got a telegram from Rahul Bajaj, ‘Sorry, New Mixie Despatched’. So one morning after about a month, the local distributor of Bajaj Mixie from Dibrugarh personally delivered a new one to T. It lasted us 33 yrs, till we retired it with much sadness and bought another new Bajaj Mixie from CSD Canteen, Rs 50 cheaper than the market.

Alwyn 165 fridge, the first item on T’s other ‘Gemara’ scroll, came by air from Hyderabad to Poona courtesy NSS Avro, at 30% employee discount, courtesy the father of one of my pupils in B Sqn when I was posted to NDA after I sent him a cheque for Rs 1745. He was an employee of Alwyn. It lasted us 29 yrs despite moves on postings all over India, storage in Hakkimpet hangar while T&I went to France. The Alwyn 165 finally became stand by ‘beer fridge’ when T went and bought a Samsung double door fridge from her salary as a Babu, from Babudom, the Kindom of GoI. I had no money, I was retired by AF by then as non-performing asset.

T has preserved the ‘Talmud Scrolls’ just to remind me that I was indeed an Akartha, many of the items on T’s scroll, especially the last item ‘house of our own’, is yet to be realised even after 38 yrs. T says I didn’t do a thing. She has forgotten my old share of two boxes of chocolates and five tins of condensed milk every month, the flying rations to prevent my ‘hypoglycaemia’, which once kept her happy, sugary and syrupy while I suffered only from hangovers, not hypoglycaemia !!!! I flew Mi-4s for a living, like Bond’s martini, shaken but not stirred, the pay wasn’t adequate to acquire everything on the Talmud Scroll wish list of our married life  !!!!!!

Reason why T left me. She is now married to GoI. I am now back to being a bachelor, looking for Ali. The bugger has gone back to B’Desh with dual passport; he is no longer a refugee like me. I also miss my mo-bike and Akai music system. My son hijacked the Ray Ban. ‘Pop, you don’t need’, it he said.  

The TV is all balls, not worth watching.

Cyclic



9 Apr 2016

KILO COURIER



There is an old comrade from Daks in 43,  Arun Karandikar (Kandy, Air Cmde Rtd, later a famed Indian Airlines Pilot), about 5 yrs my senior who was/ and still is, one of my role models. When I joined the AF, first met him, he was flying Daks from Jorhat. He was a brilliant pilot with no attitude, a simple man. From Jorhat he went on to fly the AN-12 and often came back to Jorhat on ‘Assam Courier’ trips. When someone not on the manifest ever came to ask for a lift, he would say, ‘Get in if you want to,  but I cannot assure you that we will not crash’ !!! Usually Kandy Sir never counted the heads and I have personally seen him carry twice the number of passengers that was allowed. ‘What is the use of being a good pilot if you can’t put it to good use’, was his usual comment.  There are a lot of old and bold simple soldiers from days of yore, who took leave and came to Jorhat praying that Kandy Sir was the Capt of Assam Courier. We did not have the Plan Aren those days, but the enterprising Sig fellows in Nagaland used HF & VHF to patch up to Chandigarh ATC on Wednesdays to check out who was likely to be the Capt of  the Assam courier. If it was Kandy, half of 8 Mtn Div including the GOC used to apply for leave and run to Jorhat on Friday !!!  Since I spent long innings with the army in 81 Bde (Chakabama), I have heard them repeat this folklore innumerable times with great satisfaction (making me jealous).

After Jorhat (Daks) I went further / farther in service to Chabua (104 HU) to fly MI-4s.

Once around 1977, I was sent to the outback (Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram) in the Mi-4 to do an all day long a pay parade, I think for Assam Rifles, about 10 - 12 posts starting from Parva, the southernmost point. It was called the Kilo Courier. I was to night halt at Kumbigram, do the courier the next day, again night halt at Kumbi and return to Chakabama two days later. I was to fist drop GOC 8 Mtn Div at Limakong and pick him up on return, I think  he was going on R&R.

 I picked up the paying officer, a young Capt from AR with his treasure chests (cash boxes), from Limakong (near Imphal) and took him to Parva. While the paying officer went about his task, distributing pay to AR soldiers in cash,  there would be a crowd wanting to take a lift in the MI4, either to the next helipad or somewhere en-route.

‘Come One, Come All’ I called out like an ‘Azaan’.
‘Jahaz Ap Ke Bap Ka Hai, Aur Pilot Best Hai’, I added unnecessarily.

So at every helipad someone would get in and someone would get off, I never counted or checked to see who got in, or who got off. The Mi-4 did complain and refused to hover. I had to plead with the Mi-4 that I had declared that ‘Pilot Best Hai’, even give it a kick on its rudder.

At every helipad, an AR JCO would come to me, salute and say ‘Rakh Diya Shaheb’. I presumed that it was their luggage and hence absentmindedly repeated ‘Thik Hai Saheb’. This went on for around 8 halts till we reached I think Moreh. For some strange reason, I went into the tail boom to check something and there I found two or three crates of rum.

I called to the JCO, ‘Somebody has forgotten his Rum’.
‘Nahin Shab’, he told me without guile, ‘Shab Ne Apna Apna Hishab Diya hai’.
I was quite perplexed. So I asked the young Capt, ‘What did the JCO mean ?’.

‘See here’, the Capt explained. ‘Every man who takes a lift, he has to pay his share of half a bottle of rum, it is a bribe for the pilot’
‘Says who ?’, I roared, out of sheer disgust.

‘Well Sir, that is the tradition of the Mi-4 unit in Kumbigram’, the Captain told me shrugging his shoulders.
‘Captain, we are going to change that tradition’, I announced emphatically. ‘Stop the pay parade. I have had enough. We are going back’, I told him.
‘All the guys who took a lift, I want them back in the helicopter’, I ordered.

We went back all the way to Parva, landing at each helipad turn by turn, to pick up and return the same soldiers from where I had picked them up or dropped them. I returned the bottles back to each of them ceremoniously with a proper salute.
‘Jahaz Ap Ke Bap Ka hai, Pilot Khundaki Admi Hai’, I repeated at each stop. ‘Age Se Pilot Ko Rum Diya, To Sari Paltan Ko Utha Ke Dacca Chod Doonga’, I said with determination.

I went back to Limakong, as well as the posts in Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram several times after that on routine Kilo Couriers or with GOCs / Army Cdr. I gave a lift to every man who wanted to go somewhere – it was my privilege.
Each time I asked, ‘Sala Mera Ghoos Kidhar Hai ?’.
‘Nahin Shab’, I was told by the simple jawans of AR. ‘Sala Dacca Kaun Jayaga ?’, they smiled. I smiled with them out of sheer joy, camaraderie.

I hope I set a new tradition for Mi-4 Kilo couriers in those days.

Perhaps I acted stupid because of an attitude problem ? That was what the guys in 110 complained to my Flt Cdr in 104 !!!















6 Apr 2016

'SURDIE' TALES

I was perhaps a  strange AF officer, because I spent almost 60% of my 24 yrs undressing uniform in front of the Army. In the end, after uninterrupted coitus, the army was left with no choice but to marry me, place me under command, and write good fiction in my Confidential Reports !!! In due course, like all ‘Kothe Walis’, I grew too old and ugly after 24 yrs nonstop ‘sewa’ without functional upgradation, and hence took PMR to emulate ‘Umrao Jaan’, to go do ‘dirty dancing’ in the streets for a living !!! To be perfectly honest, if I could get a few Botox injections and Silicon implants in ECHS, I would love to go back and do it all over again. It was great fun while it lasted !!.

This is a ‘Surdie’ tale, about the mighty 5 Sikh in Chakabama around 1977. I was then a 28 yr old bachelor. The famed Army Cdr used to call me a ‘French Leather’, because the AF had promoted me to the rank of F/L (Flight Lieutenant), while the army  felt that ‘Do Phiti’  Khal-Naik would be more appropriate.  

Nagaland was then on the boil with NSCN and ‘Muivah’ on a recruiting drive, forcing the prettiest girls and LGBTs in the Jessami/Tuensang valley to go and do it in the jungles, mostly underground.  That part of the world for the army was ‘non family station’; life without pretty girls and LGBTs, not doing it above ground, was totally unacceptable, not  only to the venerable bachelor Army Cdr, but also the lonely heart L/Nk bachelor freaks like me. There was a general feeling of unhappiness due to ‘love failure’. GOC 8 Mtn Div and Cdr 81 Mtn Bde became as jealous of Muivah, angry and upset like me. 

While I went around the bend, in mountain paths, the army went on the warpath. Train loads of freshly minted troops began to arrive, all of them with their bayonets unsheathed. As was customary, two  weeks’ insurgency training was required for all newly inducted bayonets, basically on how to ‘Patao’ the girls and LGBTs, and give Muivah the middle finger and erectile dysfunction. MoD had conferred NFU status to NSCN and given the army AFSPA pills that act like Viagra. Chakabama was the pit stop before the troops were deployed further up on the hills, mostly on pickets where no sensible yak, yeti, Naga or Sardar would go voluntarily, there were no girls or LGBTs there. Rest of Nagaland was as exciting as it could get. 

One fine rainy day, Bravo Company of 5 Sikh came marching down the road from Kohima, with the Coy Cdr leading. I think they were told to dismount from trucks and march to Chakabama because of poor discipline (or perhaps Diesel shortage). I am not too sure who was more undisciplined, whether the Coy Cdr or his B Coy !! One could hear them coming from as far afield as Theprazumi, about 20 km as the Mi-4 flies, which is about twice as much as what a crow needs to  fly to get there. 

There was no marching band. So the Sardars cracked a continuous stream of bawdy jokes and their laughter was  music to  their ears, but caused humming and tingling in the ear drums of others. The entire company was out of step, which was not their fault.  The Coy Cdr was my illustrious Gorkha course mate AK (E/37), about  5’ fuck all, while there wasn’t a soldier in B Coy of 5 Sikh who was an inch shorter than 6’2”.  So how could B Coy march in step with their illustrious Coy Cdr, whose normal step was only 18” despite venerable SM Kanshi Ram’s efforts in NDA to give AK the bum-boo, with a 30” pace stick  ?

‘5 Sikh were like that only’; they usually said, ‘I am loving it, like Subway Sand-bitch’, in pure Punjabi !!
     .  
In due course, B Coy of the famed 5 Sikh settled own to their routine, whatever it is that Inf Units  do ‘best-test-tesht’. Perhaps walk from here to there and back, in battle order, ‘jusht’ for the heck of  it. They also dig trenches where ever they go, I presume to protect themselves from snake in the grass Mallus like me. The famed Coy Cdr of B Coy immediately captured my OP hill accommodation in Raj Rif Mess, and took over my inventory, especially the crate of XXX Hercules under my bed. He ordered me to piss off, but did show  camaraderie by asking me not  to go too  far without him and an armed escort of Sardars from B Coy. AK insisted that I lead tac reconnaissance missions to Theprazumi, to check whether my GF ‘Angu’ and her friends were doing it over or underground. I didn’t complain, I promise. Except when subjected to creeping line arty shelling, bawdy Nepali jokes, narrated incessantly in Punjabi.  

One rainy morning when I was unemployed and trying to burrow myself underground dreaming about wonderful bayonet charges in Balaclava with Angu as the target, AK woke me up, with a kick  on my butt. ‘Come on, I will give you a chance to  command B Coy of 5 Sikh’, he told me in ‘Neplish’ (English spoken in Nepali), with a few MC/BC thrown in like Tadka. ‘We are going on mission cross country route march’, he ordered imperiously like GoI. I joined the AF because I never quite liked route  marches in NDA, even with Nimbu Pani and Tipsy Pudding as bribe. I preferred flying cross country like a crow. But AK would have none of that and was hell  bent on inducting me into Infantry. I went along meekly, for the heck of it, just to show subway sand-bitch type camaraderie.

It was raining cats and dogs when AK lined up the Sardars of B Coy of 5 Sikh and told them that a famed Ullu Mallu AF officer (Sadda Munda Kirtara) will lead them that day and teach them how to do cross country route march like a crow.  The sum total of Punjabi that I understand are a  few words; MC, BC, Todde Ma Ki Daal and Teri Pen & Pencil Di.   Since AK used all those words in his mission briefing, I presume what he said to his troops in ‘Punjali’ (Punjabi when spoken by a Nepali) was perhaps not complimentary and unprintable. The Sardars shrieked like a bunch of  hyenas, many of them rubbing their stomach from mirth. The jokes were on me. I had to grin and bear it for the pleasure  of joining Infantry (referred to as ‘Fantry’ by 5 Sikh).

Soon we were trudging up and down the wet and slushy hills, incessant chatter of the troops louder than the thunder and rain. My flying overalls, which I insisted on wearing, was so soaked that my W front underwear shrank three sizes and started squeezing my gonads. The flying boot was obviously  meant for flying and not  for  walking. Soon the uppers and soul of my F-Boots departed company and I had to use shoe lace to tie them together. For every four steps that I took up hill,  I came sliding down five, mostly on my bums. The  Sikh troops found the AF manoeuvre, sliding down hill on the bums, most hilarious. Soon we were only going downhill, sliding on our bums, the entire B Coy howling with laughter.

After every ten minutes, AK would order a halt. The troops would utter things under their breath, ‘Teri Pen Di’, shrug off their packs and sit on their haunches. One doesn’t sit on the ground in Nagaland, there are leeches that go up the ass.

Sabji Chai’, AK’s Batman cum Spiderman, cum Superman, would proffer hot tea in enamel mugs to AK and I, as soon as  the halt was ordered. This was repeated at every halt and I got  quite intrigued. Everyone in B Coy was drinking hot tea every time we halted and I didn’t see any thermos flasks. ‘How do they do it ?’. I asked AK with unsuppressed curiosity. ‘Wait and watch’, AK said in ‘Neplish’ interspersed with MC, BC, Todde Ma Ki Daal and Teri Pen & Pencil Di.

When B  Coy was ordered to start marching again, AK grabbed my arm and pulled me aside, allowing the marching column to go by in platoon groups. And there amongst each platoon I saw apparitions that I can never erase from my memory.

In thick rain, one 6’2” Sardar in each platoon, besides his Chindit pack, ammo pouches, rolled up rain coat, ferocious looking wet Pagri, SLR in one hand and 2” Howitzer base in the other, was carrying on  his head  a perfectly balanced GI Bucket with burning coal and a boiling kettle. No matter what the Sardar did, whether slipping and sliding on his bum, or charging up hill, the bucket and kettle were perfectly balanced on his head, ready for ‘Sabji Chai’, every time we halted. An incredible feat of arms.

‘Oh that is nothing, wait till we get back’, AK said when I expressed astonishment. My imagination went ballistic on what else the Sardars could do.

We went up  and down all over the mountains, sometimes through sleepy villages, not breaking stride. I tried declaring myself a causality, asked AK for casevac by helicopter. But the Mi-4 was back in Chakabama pining for me. Everyone in Chakabama could declare himself  a causality and ask for casevac by helicopter, all except me. That was my job. So 5 Sikh made a stretcher with Bum-Boo, and carried me like pallbearers, singing ‘Ardas’ all the way to keep me alive.

When we arrived back, AK ordered B Coy to line up and surrender ‘Booty’. Meekly B Coy pulled out two live goats and nine chicken from their rolled up rain coats. They had swiped all that when we went through villages without breaking stride, not a step sideways, though they were not marching in step. That night, at the langar, we celebrated with Rum, Tangdi Kebab and Mutton Ghosht.
Kirtara was formally declared a ‘friendly’, I think because they could then stop digging snake trenches.

After Rum, Tangdi Kebab and Mutton Ghosht, the CHM slid up to me.
‘Kirtara Sabji, can B Coy join Hair Force ?’ he asked with a sly smile, full of guile.  
‘Why ?’ I asked, interspersed with MC, BC, Todde Ma Ki Daal and Teri Pen & Pencil Di in Punjlu (Mallu’s Punjabi).
‘Hawai Seopy gets better pay, higher ration scale, travel free in  aircraft, and besides I quite like the AF style of cross country route march, that you taught us today, sliding on our bums’.  
B Coy hooted, it could be heard in Theprazumi.


Shortly B Coy of 5 Sikh moved out to ‘Phek’ or someplace like that. I was tempted to go with them and enrol in 5 Sikh. They are jolly good chaps, especially my course mate AK, the Nepali rascal !!!! He is the type to  whom you can hand over Davy Jones’ heart and soul, and 5 Sikh would then guard it with their life.  

4 Apr 2016

7 DAYS IN MAR


‘Rat Revolution’ in Lushai Hills - 1966

‘Mi-Zo-Ram’, now a ‘land of the happy hill people’ became an independent state of the union only in 1987, 40 yrs after Indian independence. It is an exotic locale in the north eastern corner of India, with 90.7% dense forest cover, lots of bamboo, just 52 odd persons per sq km, almost equal man to woman ratio and 97% literacy, all of them reasons why Mizoram is such a happy place.  
But that was not how it was in 1840 when Capt Blackwood, a cavalier pirate of sorts, led the 14th NLI Regiment of East India Company through the thick bamboo forest to go after the Kukis (Thahdos), Lusei and others, who were all hell bent on head hunting and eating themselves ‘Su-Shi’, in the raw, and displaying the leering heads of the dead men on a stake outside their cottage.


To give them due credit, the natives of erstwhile Lushai Hills were a persistent war like people and tested the patience of Queen Victoria till she annexed them in 1895 and made them her subjects and predicates, in Wren & Martin, the constitution of ‘Eng-Land’. Reason why they had bit of an attitude in 1947 and wanted to become ‘Lushai-Land’ like ‘Eng-Land’, and not be a part of Indian Union. Their attitude upset quite a few, including Sardar Patel, who wisely left the state of affairs and governance to 259 tribal chiefs, to continue head hunting and eating each other sushi, to keep the Lusei very happy in ‘Hinglish’ Wren & Martin under the ‘Tiranga’, and make them forget their aspiration of an independent ‘Lushai Land’.

After Indian independence, the entire ‘North East’ territory ahead of Siliguri continued to be one single province ‘Assam’, ruled by Congress Chief Ministers (CMs)  Gopinath Bordoloi (1946-50), Bishnu Ram Medhi (1950-57) and then, for thirteen tumultuous years by a Rasputin, Bimala Prasad  Chaliha (1957-70). Elected thrice as CM, Chaliha faced two national emergencies; the Sino-Indian conflict and the Mizo revolution/civil war.  The former had nothing to with him. But the latter was perhaps triggered by his politically savvy, but demographically catastrophic, draconian ‘ Official Language Act 1960’ which hoped to unify the entire North East, compelling all diverse ethnic groups to learn and speak in Assamese. Chaliha, with king size ambition, proactively resisted the popular demand to divide the mammoth, ethnically diverse, geographically difficult to  administer Assam state, into smaller states (with common ethnic and linguistic identity, as it is now), though he was put in charge of various Committees of central Govt of India (GoI) which contemplated such division. Only after his death in 1971 could GoI make any headway to break down the mammoth Assam province. But let me not jump the gun.


During Medhi’s innings as CM in 1954,  an attempt at ethnic cleansing was made by the 259 venerable Mizo chieftains, mainly to make the Christian Lusei and Budhist Chakamas into edible sushi delicacy; head hunting was after all a  favourite ‘time pas’ in that part of the world. The European Presbyterian Missionaries were the first to start crying. Their cry was picked up and repeated very volubly by international press, the Queen of England, President of America, and even the Pope. GoI, Nehru in particular, was heartbroken.

Medhi came under severe pressure to act. As all CM’s do under emergency, usually under ‘Air To Civil Power Act’, Medhi immediately called for Army intervention. But Maharaj Rajendrasinhji  Jadeja, then Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Indian Army, declined saying he had inadequate resources and that it was a political problem which Medhi must handle himself on political and administrative level. So VK Singh was not the first Army Chief to say ‘Bugger Off’, when asked to go and murder fellow Maoist citizens whom the politicians and bureaucrats could not handle within the political machinations of our strange democratic system.
Medhi then turned to the very spirited and dynamic Jairam Das Daulatram,  Governor of Assam, and Kailash Nath Katju, the Union Home Minister under Nehru. They helped by moving two Regiments (Rgts) of Assam Rifles, para military under Home Ministry, from Shibsagar and Shillong into Lushai Hill Tract, to assist in maintaining law and order by giving everyone in Lushai Hills the ‘Bum-Boo’ !

Medhi made the 259 tribal chieftains redundant and turned to the Deputy Commissioner Lushai Hills, S.N.Barkataki from Assam Civil Service Cadre, and the newly enacted ‘Lushai Hills Act’ to handle administration through elected ‘Autonomous Village Councils’. For a while Mizoram once again became a happy place eating food cooked with ‘Bhut Jolokia’ chillies and not sushi or ‘Tipsy pudding’ with Chakamas’ gonads. Then in 1958, with clockwork precision, the forests in Mizoram went wild with ‘Mautam’.

 Mautam, a cyclic ecological phenomenon, occurs precisely every 48 years when the strange bamboo (Melocanna Baccifera) in the jungles of Luhai Hills and neighbourhood, flowers all at the same time. Strangely, this massive flowering of the bamboo incites the pheromone and testosterone levels in jungle rats to multiply so rapidly that there is not enough for them to eat in the jungle. They then run out of the jungle like locust and spread-out all over Lushai Hills to forage food grains, creating famine and plague amongst the Homos, Sapiens, LGBTs as well as those who look and act like Neanderthals in Lushai Hill Tract.

In the Mautam of 1958, the rats perhaps fornicated with more zest because the famine and plague were most severe. The then Governor of Assam, Chandreswar Prasad Sinha, along with Chaliha in tow, moved Assam Rifle and some local armed constabulary, at platoon level, into the far reaches of the jungles, to set up posts with air dropping zones, create a civil-supply-chain for distribution of essential commodities, maintain law and order, and feed the hungry and unhappy people of Lushai Hill Tract. He also got the central Govt to send in the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to create a north to south motor-able road from Silchar to Lunglai, no mean task due to the severity of the jungles and mountains. The road was expected to not only improve communications, but also substantially increase the quantity of supplies that could be sent to Lushai Hills because Silchar was connected to Guhati by rail.

Mr Shankaran Nair, then Dir IB in Delhi (later Sec RAW before he resigned during Morarji’s time as PM), in a secretive operation, recruited and inducted an army of Malyalees, as ‘Political  Officers’ who had a covert role as ‘Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB)’ operatives all over the North East. They were meant to keep their finger on the pulse of the local people, transmit daily intelligence reports for IB HQ in Delhi. Their overt inconspicuous role was supply chain management of air dropped stores and assistants to civil administration!!! Local people were first taught social adjustment trades (carpentry, masonry, electrical applications, or simply as labourers for road construction and as porters for the public logistic distribution system). They were then paid in Indian currency. The currency was used to buy the goods that was air dropped.  It was a cyclic process, a successful non-profit business run by GoI !!!

First into the foray to meet the challenges of air dropping supplies to the beleaguered Mizos was Biju Patnaik and his private airline Kalinga Airways, operating from Guhati and Kumbigram (Silchar), also handling the to-ing and fro-ing of VIPs, para medics, political and administrative teams, all from a small wartime ‘advanced landing ground (ALG)’, (now the Lengpui Airport, 32 km from Aizwal (old Aijal). IAF soon joined in. General Satyawant Mallanna Shrinagesh, ex Chief Of Army Staff (CoAS), who succeeded Sinha as Governor, increased the quantum of solace and the Mautam crisis was more or less brought under control by 1960.

As it happens in every calamity, the locals rose to the occasion too, by forming the ‘Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF)’. The MNFF was a large work force of pioneers, basically to lend a hand with the grass root distribution of the logistic aid that was being air dropped at the dropping zones at Aijal, Champai and Lungle. MNFF was to carry it in small head loads to inaccessible far flung habitats, all over the jungle, …….one hell of a job.

And the man who quickly rose up the chain of command in MNFF was the charismatic, dynamic, 33 year old, demobilised ex Havildar Pu Laldenga, born an Assamese with Mizo ancestry and family ties. His greatest achievement was to integrate the diverse tribes of Lushai Hill Tracts into a single group called Mizos and give an identity to the Lushai Hill Tract as ‘Mizoram’. He was gleefully preferred as a stooge and promoted to the forefront by the state, as well as the local civil administration, due to his military background as well disciplined efficiency and ability to motivate his illiterate and backward people.

As Hav Laldenga’s popularity grew amongst the tribes of the new ‘Mizoram’ across the board, his pockets began to bulge. He began to develop megalomania and king sized ambition, especially when inadvertently supported and abetted by the army’s Eastern Command, as well as  the civil administration run by an ex CoAS in Guwahati. The Indian army, civil administration and the IB created the over ambitious political Frankenstein from one amongst their own cadre.

As it often happens, political mavericks create secessionist movements only when supported by rouge external nation state(s) with motives, money, cross border shelter, arms and training. Hav Laldenga became the darling of then East Pakistan, keen to support dissidents and break away groups in India. Under Paki tutelage in Oct 1961, Laldenga (along with JF Manliana, R Vanlawma, and Rochhinga, comrades from MNFF), dropped ‘Famine’ from the apolitical MNFF and converted it to a right wing fascist ‘Mizo National Front (MNF)’ with explicit secessionist intensions, to go back to the ambitions of creating a kingdom called Mizoram, the same ‘Lushai-Land’ like ‘Eng-Land’, with Hav Laldenga as King (much like Idi Amin in Uganda).

India at that time got embroiled with the Sino Indian war (1962) and lost focus of the MNF and the Mizoram. The Malyalee political officers from SIB, most of them young frustrated bachelor Catholic Christians, were using the expat missionaries as conduits for creating ‘zenanas’ with the prettiest girls in the neighbourhood. Their finger instead of being on the political pulse as Shankaran Nair intended, was elsewhere.  They became ‘sleepers’ on the job. Laldenga was left alone to ferment separatist ideology, piggy backing on the public dissent created by introduction of Assamese as compulsory official language, part of the ping pong policies introduced by CM Chaliha, with full support from ex CoAS Srinagesh and Vishnu Sahai, an ex-ICS Cabinet Secretary, who alternated with ex CoAS Srinagesh every few years as imperious Governors of Assam between 1959-68. GoI had no clue about the political trouble that was brewing in the new found Mizoram despite the bevy of ‘political officers’ of SIB present there.

Laldenga and his minions in MNF went on a recruiting drive to create a private army of mercenaries using demobilised or retired ex-military cadres to form the supervisory chain of command with younger able bodied men as jawans. 2 AR, which had just been disbanded for mutiny, joined Hav Laldenga to the last man. This private army of the MNF was then named Mizo National Army (MNA). After recruitment, the MNA cadre were secretly ferreted out to clandestine training camps in East Pakistan, where they were split, armed and trained to form two infantry Brigades (Bdes), each with four battalions (Bns), much like the Indian army.

The ‘Lion Bde’, with Bns named after Mizo legends (Chawngbawla, Khuangchera, Saizahawla and Taitesena Bns) were given operational responsibility of the northern half of Miizoram. The Dagger Bde (with Joshua, Lalvunga, Vanapa and Zampui Manga Bns) operated in the southern part. By the end of 1965, the MNF had armed themselves with basic infantry weapons; 303 rifles, 9mm Stens, AK-47, LMGs, RPGs, mostly supplied by Pakis, and others stolen from Assam Rifles. They also obtained explosives by raiding the posts of Border Roads Organisation engaged in building the north to south road in the inaccessible parts of Mizoram. Money came from raiding banks in Assam, as also counterfeit notes printed in Pakistan. The Pakis taught MNA how to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to booby trap jungle trails, to mine roads and to blow up installations.

To support the operational logistics of the two Bdes in inaccessible terrain, Laldenga called upon his old army of pioneers and irregulars of MNFF and formed them into Mizo National Volunteers (MNV) under command of MNF. By mid-1965 the stage was set for ‘rat revolution’ and civil war in Lushai Hill Tract, now referred to as Mizoram. Happy Lusei were then turned to very unhappy and angry Mizos.

As it happens in insurgency and civil war in remote areas, the MNA too had to feed off the land, depend on the villages for their sustenance (new recruits, money, food, shelter, wine, women and song). Atrocities began initially as pillage, abduction and rape. To cover that up, Laldenga called for ethnic cleansing, targeting the non-Christian minorities (Chakma, Mara, Lai, Tripuri, Hmar, Paite,…….etc). Mizoram went on the boil.

Code named ‘Operation Jericho’, Hav Laldenga’s plan was simple. He hoped the two Bdes of MNA attacking form north and south would quickly capture the treasuries, neutralise the posts manned by Assam Rifles / other local police / militia, takeover police stations and jails, capture armouries, arrest important non-Mizo (‘Vai’) officials and hoist the MNF flag at Aijal on 1 Mar, followed by a victory parade on 2 Mar 1966. He hoped that many from the civil administration would turn sympathisers and make the takeover easy. Hav Laldenga also hoped that if he could keep the MNF flag flying in Aijal for 48 hours, other countries such as Pakis would recognise the Mizo territory as a sovereign state, plead their case in UN, perhaps even invite UN peace keeping forces in the new found ‘Kingdom of Mizoram’.

The AR posts did get some indication that something was amiss when during the night of 27 Feb, Rokima, the brother of the MNF Lieutenant Lalnunmawia was killed in an accidental explosion of an IED, investigated by AR on 28th morning. However, AR could neither connect the IED blast with an impending attack, or the ferocity with which it would come the same night.

28 Feb 1966.
There was no Indian Army tentacle in Mizoram on 28 Feb 1966. The closest, 61 (then an Inf Bde), was located at Silchar. Its forces, 4 understaffed Bns, were strung about on posts all over Nagaland and Manipur tackling other insurgencies. Since Mizoram had been comparatively peaceful, the only defensive forces there were para military; one battalion of No 1 AR, besides unarmed Border Roads Organisation (BRO) road construction parties, tentacles of unarmed / armed local armed constabulary, all of them in defensive garrisons at Kolasib, Aijal, Champai and Lunglai, besides platoon sized in-depth posts elsewhere deeper in the jungle where there were DZs.

On the night of 28 Feb/1 Mar 1966, both Bdes of MNA launched a series of simultaneous well planned attacks on the AR posts at Kolasib, Aijal,  Lungle  and Champai; as well as the constabularies at Demagiri, Chawngte, Hnahlan,  Marpara,  Tuipang,  Tuipuibari,  Vaphai  and Vaseitlang. The Border Security Force (BSF) in embryonic state was just being raised and was not involved in Mizoram, not then. There is no record of employment of CRPF at this stage.

The MNF attack at Lungle began at about 2230 hrs on 28 Feb 66, at the sub-treasury office situated within the defended perimeter of 1 AR post.  500–800 strong MNA attacked the stockade and were soon repulsed leaving two AR personnel and six of MNA dead. Three AR personnel were wounded. The AR camp was then surrounded and the siege lasted three days.

On 1 Mar morning one Mi-4 from 110 Helicopter Unit which tried to attend to 1 AR call for causality evacuation was shot at and had to return empty handed, without landing. No further attempts were made by helicopters to rescue the wounded.

The siege continued with intensive rifle and LMG fire from both sides. 1 AR began to run out of ammo and drinking water, while the MNA seemed to have no such difficulties.


An AF Dak from Kumbigram made a valiant attempt to air drop ammunition and water. It too came under fire and had to abort. On 5 March, the insurgents kidnapped RV Pillai, the Sub-divisional Officer (from SIB). At night on 6 Mar when they ran out of drinking water and ammunition, Lungle post surrendered along with the lightly held garrison of the BRO. By 0700 hrs on 7 Mar, MNF flag was flying over Lungle and the treasury as well as the armoury were in MNA’s hands.

Lungle was a diversion. The main objective of the MNA was Aijal. As sun set on 28th Feb, MNA elements started to infiltrate the township and completely surrounded it by around 2230 hrs. MNA then setup road blocks to prevent vehicular traffic. They began a combing operation looking for important members of the civil administration.  TS Gill, the Deputy Commissioner (DC) at Aijal, an ex-Army officer from the Indian Frontier Administrative Service (IFAS), took shelter in the heavily defended AR garrison. On his way he managed to get hold of L/Nk Shivashankaran Nair and his HF radio set from the BRO post.

1 Mar 66
At around 0200 hrs on 1 Mar, MNA elements attacked the telephone exchange at Aijal and took control, cutting all telephone links to the outside world. An hour later, around 150 MNA combatants, led by Nk Sub Lalnundawta (ex 2 AR, by now a self-styled Colonel), attacked the District Treasury and took control of not only treasure, but the entire armoury. Within the next few hours, the MNA was in control of all the administrative nerve centres, entirely paralysing the civil administration. They also seized all the vehicles in the town. MNA attacked the Aijal AR garrison repeatedly but could not penetrate the outer ring of ‘punjis’ (sharp wooden stakes) and ditches with intensive well sited fire from AR. By daybreak on 1 Mar, Aijal was completely under the control of the MNA and the AR garrison was surrounded and quarantined.

L/Nk Nair opened communication with 61 Bde in Silchar and civil administration at Shillong, Gauhati and Calcutta by 0400 hrs on 1 Mar. TS Gill started dictating situation reports every half an hour with Nair tapping the Morse code key.  This BRO radio link remained the only means of communication with Lushai Hill Tract in the subsequent days. The bad news was conveyed to the PMO, but blacked out from the press.

The records of a fact finding mission, from Govt of Assam, consisting of an all-party group sent to Mizoram three months later states, ‘At about 0130 hrs on 1 Mar, about 150 MNA surrounded the sub-divisional officer of the Public Works Department at Phainuam (near Vairengte) and asked him to get out of the district. They also took over the departmental stores, arms and ammunition of the policemen and all available vehicles. After the civil administration and local police ran off into the jungles, the MNA retreated to Kolasib. Similar incidents were reported from Coinlang and Chawngte. At the same time MNA captured the AR post at Champhai, with help from their sympathisers inside the AR post.

At Kolasib, the MNA took around 250 civil officials, the policemen and BRO road construction pioneers as captives, and kept them without food and water for two days. The women and children were also taken as captives and kept separately in a small building. However, none of the civilian officials and government servants was harmed. The MNF perhaps expected their support in running the administration of the proposed new sovereign state’.

In a brilliant lightening surgical strike, Hav Laldenga had liberated Lushai Hill Tract, and proclaimed independence of Mizoram. Well almost. All that remained as a thorn in his ass was the vigilant and valiant besieged post of 1 AR at Aijal which refused to surrender. It was just a matter of time, before they too ran out of water and ammunition and surrendered.

At 1100 hrs on 1 Mar, Hav Laldenga ceremoniously proclaimed independence, and exhorted all the Mizos to join the revolt against the ‘illegal Indian occupation’ of ‘Mizoram’, land of the Mizo people. Due to sniper fire from the AR post, he had to cancel the victory parade. The declaration of independence was a public relations fiasco since there were only the MNF cadre present along with a few press reporters whom Laldenga had invited. They could not get the news out since all telephone lines had been cut by the MNA. However, jeeps with loud speakers were sent around Aijal to convey the declaration of independence amongst the local population. It panicked them.
 
2 Mar 66
On 2 Mar, MNA ambushed an offensive patrol of the 1st AR just as they set forth from the garrison and inflicted heavy casualties on them. Around 1100 hrs MNA captured Aijal jail and all prisoners were set free. This led to further looting and arson of Aijal bazar, though the bazar was closed. Because of AR's refusal to surrender, the planned victory parade by MNF on 2nd Mar was postponed to 10th Mar. Fearing oppression and retribution, the civil population of Aijal began running away into the jungles. 

All of 2nd and 3rd Mar loudspeakers were used to broadcast continuous propaganda asking the Aijal garrison to surrender.  However the garrison stood fast and repulsed the MNA sallies to overrun the post.

By now the national press as well as international press had got the wind of the revolution in Lushai Hills. Canards began to fly. Chaliha, the CM in Gauhati, was livid with rage. He went ballistic with his rhetoric. Vishnu Sahay the Governor was equally emotive and joined Chaliha in blaming everyone else other than himself or Chaliha, especially for releasing Laldenga from jail without interrogation of any sort when he was caught returning from East Pak, the previous year. Indira Gandhi, a political novice had been PM for just 35 days with Gulzari Lal Nanda as her Home Minister. There were political and policy paralysis in Delhi, as well as Guhati.

Though overwhelmed by the turn of events, perhaps because of the quick intervention of Shankaran Nair from IB, GoI immediately grasped the delirious situation and promptly passed the buck back to Sahay and Chaliha to deal with it as they deemed fit, to take immediate and appropriate actions. On 2 March 1966, the Government of Assam invoked the ‘Assam Disturbed Areas Act (1955)’ and ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act (ASPA-1958)’, handing over the ball to Lt Gen Sam Manekshaw, then GOC-in-C Eastern Command at Calcutta, to intervene and sort out Hav Laldenga and his revolution.

When interrogated by the press, Sam made a candid admission that the ‘Army has been caught with its pants down. We have lost complete control in Lushai Hills and would now have to go and use maximum force to capture it back’ !

3rd Mar 66
On 3rd Mar, the MNA led by self-styled Brig (ex Hav of 2 AR) Hruaia plundered the Public Works Department office in Aijal, looting and destroying the entire records of Lushai Hill Tract ‘Sawrkar’ (Government) Office. The violence and strife continued unabated.

A quick tactical appreciation by Sam, in consultation with Brig (later Lt Gen) Jaswant Singh, then Commander 61 Inf Bde then in Silchar, convinced Sam that the battle was lost even before it began. Jaswant estimated that, to go find transport to recall even a few from the 4 Inf Bns under his command hamstrung all over the then vast north east Assam, traverse the impregnable jungles using the only road defended by the enemy (Lion Bde of MNA), fight through the road blocks and ambushes to go and relieve the beleaguered 1 AR garrison in Aijal, 61 Bde would take not less than a month. Time was of essence, since 1 AR garrison, the only forces opposing Laldenga’s rat revolution, was likely to be overrun in a matter of few days. If Laldenga did his victory march in Aijal, Lushai Hills would be lost for ever.

Without hesitation Sam dialled Gen JN Chaudhuri, then CoAS, and did a corner kick to put the ball into the apex court in Army HQ. JNC called for a meeting of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff and asked the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Mshl  (now Mshl of IAF) Arjan Singh to use ‘Air Power’ to bailout Lushai Hills.
Heli lifting of troops using Mi-4s was the obvious answer. But in earlier attempts Mi-4s (as also Daks and Caribous) had been thwarted by intense ground fire from MNA. Some ground sanitation was called for. Army had no artillery in that area. Flying armed WW-II propeller driven Havards from flying training academy at Jodhpur to Silachar, to do escort duty as well as ground attack was considered by Op Branch at Air HQ. But this was found to be time consuming to get them operational at Silchar. Since there was hardly any choice available to IAF, the only pragmatic solution that Arjan Singh found was use of Hunters and Toofani jet fighter aircraft locally available in Assam. The CAS immediately ordered 29 Sqn (Toofanis) to move to Kumbigram and 17  Sqn (Hunters) to move to Jorhat. They were ready for combat missions at both bases by the morning of 5 Mar 66. Perhaps the lessons from 1962 war helped make this quick decision by Arjan and equally quick reactions by the fighter Sqns. The IAF had no choice but to use a sledge hammer to kill a fly.

In the meanwhile, Sam ordered 61 Inf Bde Cdr, Jawant Singh, to move forward to Vairengte along with 8 Sikh and 2 Para less a Company to make contact with forward elements of Lion Bde at  Chimlang on the northern extreme of Mizoram. Another two Bns (2/11 GR and 3 Bihar) were asked to thin the boots on ground at their posts and rush to Vairengte and beyond as soon as possible in support of the  meagre force that was led by Jaswant. Since it was then an Inf Bde, it had no artillery worth mention..

Brig R Z Kabraji commanding 311 Inf Bde at Tallimora (near Agartala) was ordered by Sam to thin the troops on Paki border and send part of his forces as reserves for 61 Bde. They were able to move only by 7th Mar, and were hence sent back half way, after MNA was neutralised by the AF and Aijal recaptured. 

By nightfall on 3rd, 61 Bde was on the move southwards from Silchar towards the traps laid by the Lion Bde of MNA, with mine fields, road blocks and ambushes. A fate worse than Namka Chu (Dalvi’s 7 Bde in 62 war) awaited them. Unless ‘Airpower’ was brought to bear in Lushai Hills, the war with MNA was lost.  Unlike 1962, the IAF did not hesitate; like a Cobra, they uncoiled and struck.

4th  Mar 66
At around 0900 hrs on 4th Mar, waves of suicide squads comprising MNV and MNA made a well-coordinated massed attack on the Aijal garrison. They lost 13 men with more than 150 wounded with no loss of life in the AR garrison, other than 9 wounded. The AR garrison was completely out of ammunition and drinking water.

Two Mi-4s of 110 HU from Kumbigram sent with ammunition boxes, medicine chests and water in jerry cans could not land to discharge stores or pick up causalities due to heavy ground fire from MNA. One single pass high level air drop attempted by a Caribou fell outside the garrison, into the waiting hands of MNA. It completely demoralised the AR garrison and they began preparations for surrender.

The MNA had taken over and consolidated all over Lushai Hill Tracts. Aijal garrison was on the verge of collapsing, but held on perhaps due to the charisma, leadership and encouragement of the DC, TS Gill present in the garrison. He had first been a soldier, and bureaucrat only afterwards.

5 Mar 66
On 5th afternoon, an attempt was once again made to land Mi-4s at Aijal with Toofani fighter escort, as well as a similar exercise by Caribou to airdrop with escort. But both attempts failed simply because of the vast difference in the speed of the fighter jets. They had difficulty in locating Aijal and could not arrive over the target at the precise moment when the Mi-4 or Caribou arrived there. Due to intense and accurate LMG fire from MNA, both the Mi-4 and Caribou turned back once again with many bullet holes. Though all these attempts by the Air Force raised the morale of the AR garrison, the time had come for direct action by the fighter jets. The trouble was that due to their high speed, they could neither locate the MNA, nor distinguish friends from foe !!

Toofanis operating from Kumbhirgram, and Hunters from Jorhat were used over Champai, Darangoan, Vaphai and Demagiri. The posts were asked to generate yellow smoke to identify them from the air.  These operations were meant to keep the MNA at bay and to ease the pressure on the surrounded posts till they could be reinforced by flying in troops by helicopter. Aijal was the main target and the AF fighter aircraft went into this battle with whole hearted zest and enthusiasm.

6 Mar 66
‘17 Sqn (Hunters) was based at Jorhat and we carried out strikes at Aijal on 6th Mar 1966. We asked the GLO to inform the AR garrison at Aijal to paint markers to indicate targets’, recalls Fg Offr (later Air Mshl) Tester Master who flew missions in a Hunter.

‘The GLO at Jorhat briefed us that an army unit was surrounded at a high ground by rebels in the middle of Aijal town. We were briefed that air support/supply by helicopter and Dakota aircraft had been met by small arms fire from the rebels.  The AR garrison was in danger of suffering casualties and needed close air support.

The AR Garrison were housed in barracks with thatched roofs, with a clear area around them the size of a football field. It was decided to use rockets and front guns to attack the rebels and provide relief to the surrounded troops (we did not use bombs).  The AR was asked to put markings on the ground to indicate the target (location of MNA concentrations). The markings comprised an arrow to show the direction of the target and strips laid diagonally below the arrow to indicate distance. If I remember right, the baseline was 1000 yds and each strip was plus 100 or 200 yds. So if there were two strips below the arrow the target was 1200 or 1400 yds in that direction.
 
I did two Hi-Lo-Hi strikes on 6th March with rockets and front guns (Hunter Mk 56 252 1:15 and 331 1:20 minutes).  We carried out rocket attacks first, followed by strafing of the designated area.  In both sorties, our targets were thatched ‘bashas’, which in our cine films were seen to be hit by my wingman and myself.  After the attacks, we reconnoitred the main highway leading to Aijal to interdict vehicular movement, but found no such targets.

Viju Joshi, Harry Hardas, then Sqn Ldr MS Bawa were some of the others from 17 Sqn who flew ground attack missions.  That month's log book was signed by Sqn Ldr PP Singh as Flt Cdr and Wg Cdr AS Mohan as CO.  Our EO was Flt Lt Nagpal.  The Stn Cdr was Gp Capt Kirloskar.  We received messages that our missions were successful and helped relieve the siege of the army units. 

The sound and fury of jet fighter aircraft orbiting overhead at low level are by themselves frightening enough to those who have never experienced it. And when these aircraft attack with rockets or guns, there is none who is not psychologically scarred. There were no buildings near the AR garrison, just a village of thatched huts housing and a small market that had grown around the post, which the MNA were using to hide and enfilade the AR garrison. The civil population had fled into the jungles during the previous three days. And because bombs were not used, the air attacks killed or injured only a few (14 MNA / MNV killed). The fear psychosis of the unexpected air attack, and the fire that engulfed the village (because the village was made of dry bamboo and thatch, both incendiary), these were adequate to completely shatter the morale and discipline of the MNA / MNV and MNF and disperse them helter-skelter. By the time the air attacks  were called off on the evening of 6 Mar, there were hardly any one present in Aijal, neither civil population, nor the MNF/MNA/MNV. They all ran away. The civil war was immediately deflated.


7 Mar 66
Because of the air strikes, 8 Sikhs and 2 Para had an easier passage to quickly reach Aijal. However, they did have to overcome blown bridges, mine fields, and ambushes with sporadic small arms fire from MNA stragglers. In an exceptionally zestful insertion, 2 Para entered Aijal and relieved 1 AR by the afternoon of 7 Mar. The Mi-4 helicopters then brought in water, food, para-medics and civil administration. On return, they evacuated the causalities and injured to the base hospital in Silchar. 

TS Gill moved back to his headquarters and immediately started a disaster management program with vigour. Chaliha continued to spew venomous self-seeking verbiage to the press to gain brownie points, but did not have the courage to visit Aijal, not then. Governor Vishnu Sahay, an old hand from ‘Babudom’, the civil service, kept his mouth shut and left Chaliha on a loose rein. Indira and Gul Nanda became entangled in their own battle for political survival in Delhi because of the overwhelming threat form Moraji Desai, the piss man. Lushai Hill Tract now became the baby of the Army, not only to maintain law and order, but to also administer, win hearts and minds to make the Mizos happy once again.

Continuing their incredible momentum, Lt Col Mathew Thomas commanding 2 Para moved on southwards and relieved Lunglai on 13 Mar. The MNF/MNA/MNV with Hav Laldenga moved into the jungles and mingled with the local population with the loot, arms and their deceased minds, starting a zestful insurgency abetted by Paki intelligence (ISI). This story unfortunately does not end here. It was just the beginning of a long drawn out battle in which the Indian army suffered as much, or more than the civil population, while the political kingpins continued triggering dissent and pursuing grandiose personal ambition with the help of ISI.

Aftermath : 1966 – 1987
After the MNF fled into the jungle and started a virulent insurgency, the Army Commander Sam was left holding the tub and bath water, without the baby. His staff officers in Eastern Command ran about helter-skelter and finally, for want of another example, narrowed down to templating ‘Briggs Plan’, which the British had used to subdue a similar conflict in Malaya, a decade earlier.

Briggs' Plan, was devised by British General Harold Briggs in 1950 as ‘Director of Operations’ in Malaya, to defeat the Malayan communists operating out of Malayan jungles as a  guerrilla army, primarily by cutting them off from their sources of support amongst the local population. Briggs devised a massive forced resettlement of Malayan peasantry, around 5 lk people, removed from their natural habitats. He interned them in guarded military camps called ‘New Villages’.

The only unimaginative change that Sam made, before he moved on to Delhi as the CoAS, was to change the name ‘New Villages’ to ‘Progressive Protected Villages (PPVs)’. The man who was put in charge to execute the controversial Briggs’ plan was the newly posted GOC 101 Com Zone (CZ) in Shillong,
Maj Gen Sagat Singh, who was under the impression that he had been side-lined perhaps due to his tenacious action at Nathu La. While he fixed the Chinese at Nathu La pas and fenced off the border, his colleague in the adjacent area in Sikkim abandoned Jalap La pas for ever. In the administrative melee that followed, very strangely, the man who lost Jalap La got away while Sagat’s heroic acts at Nathu La was not viewed in kindly light, perhaps because he was considered a maverick and prone to think and act out of the system box. In a war that followed, several years later, as GOC 4 Corps, Sagat’s illustrious character traits won India its greatest military victory in a thousand years. That war, as also the insurgency in Lushai Hill Tract required such a man, with ability to think and act out of the box.

In the aftermath of the civil war in Lushai hills, Sam’s desire to execute Briggs plan immediately, was not Sagat’s priority. Instead he went after Hav Laldenga and his MNF/MNA/MNV. Though Sagat was close lipped and held his cards close to  his  chest, he perhaps felt that Briggs plan was  likely to succeed only when the insurgency was controlled, a matter of chicken and eggs perception, which was to be done first ! By the end of 1966, armed reinforcements were sent to the Lushai Hill Tracts (18 Punjab, 9 Bihar, 6, 18 & 19 AR, 4 Bn of CRPF) to maintain law & order under Sagat’s command (101 Com Zone, at Shillong).

Capt Chandrakant (later Maj, VrC) of 4 Guards, recollects; ‘During the raids on MNA hideouts, the documents seized indicated transfer of large funds to MNF from the Methodist Baptist Churches in USA, and routing such funds through the Roman Catholic church in Shillong. The expat missionaries were the conduits for MNF funding and were found abetting and inflaming the MNF aspirations. Most of these foreign missionaries were therefore expelled and replaced with Christian priests from Kerala’.

Chandrakant continued. ‘The MNF/MNA/MNV cadre dispersed in smaller units, merged with the local population and continued to carry out armed attacks against the security forces in the district. The villagers suffered from both sides. The insurgents would kill those resisting their entry into the villages, while the villages suffered reprisals from the security forces in case ambushes had taken place in their vicinity. However, due to the proactive efforts of the Army to win the hearts and minds of the people of Lushai Hills, they began to turn against the insurgents and often helped the army to locate their hideouts and act as scouts. The tide began to turn against Laldenga’.

To the south, due thick forests in Burma, Laldenga had no direct escape route. Using 61 & 311 Bdes, well placed blockades on every exit route, extensive use of helicopters to reposition his forces, Sagat effectively blocked off the eastern and western escape routes. A new 57 Mountain Div was raised at Masimpur and a Counter Insurgency / Jungle Warfare School at Vairengte to train Inf Soldiers in the art of fighting counter insurgency battles. Every soldier in Mizoram was trained in this school to reduce the degree of violence and to reduce discomfiture of the innocent population especially during cordon and search operations.

Sagat then started a systematic flushing of MNF/MNA/MNV out of the jungles.. Gradually, they were either caught and jailed, or if they surrendered, sent for rehabilitation programmes instituted by the army and civil administration. Hav Laldenga escaped into East Pakistan along with a few of his cadre. Sagat then carried out clandestine cross border, deep penetration strikes into East Pak.  But Hav Laldenga, under the protection of Paki intelligence, moved first to Mirpur and then to Lalmai Hills, from where he escaped to Chittagong tracts and the jungles in Burma with what was left of MNA.

Briggs’ plan was finally put into effect by Sagat, on the insistence of Sam, with political connivance and approval of Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) which also included opposition parties, plus Planning Commission. 764 villages (95% of population in Lushai Hills) were forcibly grouped together into 18 Progressive Protected Villages (PPVs), in four phases over 4 yrs, in a 30 km belt along the Kolasib-Lunglai road, in an infamous military operation named ‘ Accomplishment’.

The PPVs had barbed wire fencing, ditches and ‘Punjis’ to protect them from MNA attack. All inmates of PPVs were issued Identity cards and had to take an ‘Out Pass’ when leaving the PPVs for personal errands. Anyone caught outside the PPVs without a pas was deemed MNF/MNA and arrested.  The major complaint against the PPVs, discomfiture for the tribal populace who were earlier nomadic, was discontinuity of ‘Jhooming’, burning of jungles to do cursory farming and moving on to other locations when the forests grew back. In reality, the Mizos lived in better conditions in the PPVs, were better fed and clothed, availed modern medical facilities, lived a safe and secure life,  all under the auspices of the Army. Many reports filed by foreign correspondents, after visiting PPVs, bear testimony. This continued till 1970.

While insurgency continued at lower levels, the space for political negotiations was created by the Army. In August 1968, the Government of India offered amnesty to the insurgents, which resulted in the surrender of 1524 MNF members. This was followed by more amnesty offers, which led to benign entry of the MNF into mainstream politics. While armed insurgency was contained, ‘Op Accomplishment’ inflamed the passions and aspirations of the Mizo peoples for autonomy and statehood, but without secessionism, or claims for ‘Azaadi’. 

In 1971, because of the efforts of RAW, who negotiated with Laldenga, the GoI agreed to convert Lushai Hill Tracts into a Union Territory, which came into being as ‘Mizoram’ in 1972. Afterwards, in 1986, in pursuance of Rajiv Gandhi’s peacenik policies, RAW once again negotiated a ‘Memorandum of Settlement’, signed by Hav Ladenga, R. D. Pradhan (Home Secretary), and Lalkhama (Chief secretary). Following the Mizoram Peace Accord, Mizoram was declared a full-fledged state of India in 1987, incredibly with the secessionist, arsonist, Hav Laldenga as its first Chief Minister !!! Laldenga finally won his war, even had a victory parade in Aijal, with the Army saluting and acknowledging him as ‘King of Mizoram’ !!!  However, political defections within MNF toppled him from office in 1988, like Humpty Dumpty.  

Hav Laldenga never rose in politics again, perhaps due to lung cancer. He was treated at state expense in New Delhi and New York. While headed for London, he died on 7 Jul 1990. Hav Laldenga, the Kaliyug King of the Mizos, was honoured with the first state funeral in Mizoram, and buried in the centre of Aizawl, the born again Aijal, capital of the 23rd state of Indian Union for which Laldenga had fought tooth and nail. More than 80% of the Mizos now live in Aijal and one wonders whether Hav Landenga is happy in his grave.

On the 50th anniversary of the ‘Rat Revolution’ Mizoram is now one of the most peaceful states in the region, leapfrogging towards prosperity. Mautam came again in 2006-07. But rats have realised that they cannot create a revolution again. Mautam has now become a tourist event. Rat revolution is perhaps over, for good. Thank God. The Mizos like my old senior comrade in AF, Joe Lalmingliana and an old GF in Aijal whose name I forgot, they are really very nice people, they deserve better; all the peace, prosperity and happiness they can have !!
Cheers to the Mizos.
Cyclic.