Army Police Show Down Averted

Anil Chowdhry, IPS, AGMUT

When Mizoram was carved out as a Union Territory (UT) from Assam in 1972, my cadre was changed from Assam to UT, and I was transferred from Karimgunj in Cachhar district of Assam bordering Bangladesh to Lunglei, as Sub Divisional Police Officer in Mizoram, a narrow tongue of land of India bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In Lunglei, I lived in a house made of bamboos, like all homes in the small town, on a hill. My small office was on the main road below it. The fires of revolt lit by Pu Laldenga and the Mizo National Front (MNF) were still smoldering. The situation was brought under control by the Assam Rifles (AR) and Indian Army units by moving the Mizos (Mi= People + Zo = hill) from their villages on hill tops to well-guarded Group Centers (GCs) along the main roads. Life was slowly, but gradually, limping back to normalcy after 5/6 long years of violence and insurgency. I was expected to keep Lunglei free from depredations by the MNF armed gangs operating from the deep jungles called “The Jungle Party” with the help of a small civil police force, a detachment of CRPF, and active liaison with the AR and Army units.

One morning, I was sitting in my small office with a total staff of 2: one Havildar Lalkhuma and an Assistant Sub Inspector Vanluaia (ASIboth Mizos). Lalkhuma entered my room, and after a smart salute with a cherubic smile, handed to me a wireless message which said that the Government of Mizoram was pleased to upgrade Lunglei and Saiha Subdivisions as Districts, and further pleased to promote me as the first SP of both the districts. I was pleased indeed and told Lalkhuma, “under the powers vested in me as District SP, I hereby promote you as an ASI and Vanluaia, as a Sub Inspector.” We celebrated by ordering tea and biscuits from a “Kapi” Tea vendor near the office.

Later, one day I was out of Lunglei in Demagiri (Tlabung)- about 2.5 hrs drive away – inspecting a PS on the bank of a river with Bangladesh territory on the other side, Officer Incharge (O/C) came rushing with an SOS wireless message from Inspr L C Tiwary O/C of Lunglei PS that an armed detachment of the 18 AR had surrounded the PS demanding that a police constable, who had kidnapped the pet dog of Col O P Sharma their CO, be immediately handed over to them. Tiwary was at his wits end, and somehow holding out. The message was cryptic. I wanted to know exactly what was happening. Col Sharma was a nice old gentleman in his fifties and paternalistically affectionate towards me and Anil Baijal, my friend and DM Lunglei, (we were both in our twenties). I reached out to Col Sharma via the Army Field phone from the AR Post in Demagiri and pleaded with him to ask his detachment to leave the PS, assuring him that I was heading back and shall hand over the delinquent Mizo policeman. Col Sharma, who lived within the 18 AR Bn premises without his family and forever held his baby Pomeranian fondly in his lap, was literally in tears! But on my persuasions his troops were called back! On my return to Lunglei, I visited the Police Lines located on a hill top. I asked the Gurkha Subedar Major heading the makeshift training facility of the freshly recruited constables “What happened?” He said “Sir the recruits were taken to the 18AR Bn. Hqrs to take part in the Dussehra festivities observed with much funfair by the Gurkha troops. One of them saw this cute puppy, as they were heading back, picked it up and put it in his bag. At night the recruit constables living in Bamboo barracks in the Police Lines killed, cooked and ate up the animal! I asked him to line up all the recruits. I addressed them sternly and asked them to name the culprit. There was pin drop silence. When I threatened that I shall sack them all and send them home, one very young and innocent looking recruit smartly stepped forward and owned up! I immediately ordered him to be locked up in the Quarter Guard.

I drove to 18 AR Bn. Hqrs in my “ZRM 100” Willy’s Jeep and after offering my deepest condolences to Col Sharma, informed him that the culprit had been found and put in the Lock Up. Thereafter, I tried to convince him to pardon the young man who had not committed any crime under the IPC for killing the dog and eating its meat, but could be booked U/ S 380 IPC for theft, if he insisted. I also described to him the sterling honesty of the very young Mizo lad by publicly confessing his crime and swearing never to repeat such an act ever again. Being a man with a heart of gold Col. Sharma agreed to forgive the young recruit. “I shall look for another white Pomeranian to help me forget my lost pet Anil ji. Let the Mizo boy go”.

Thus was averted a major Army Police confrontation in a remote insurgency torn part of our country!

There was much to be admired in Mizo society including their egalitarianism – the rich and poor mixed freely socially and came to each other’s aid in times of distress. It was a very open and liberal society allowing the boys and girls to mix freely and decide upon their life time partnerships. With the help of kids living in my neighbourhood I was able to pick up Mizo language which had a very simple and phonetic vocabulary, and established a good rapport with Lungleites. They affectionately called me a Mizo “Tlangwal” (young man)

 

 

 

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