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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

1966 IAF 'bombing' of Aizwal, Mizoram - Memories of inferno still remain fresh

Image Source: The Hindu

After the barbaric murder of 76 CRPF soldiers, the IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, has said that he is not in favour of the use of air power in anti-Maoist operations. He has said that use of military power was to inflict maximum damage, and without a 100% guarantee that the targeted area or person is an enemy of the country, using lethal military force against Indian citizens isn't warranted.

You may read more about it here.

Now, let us go back to 1966 to an incident that shook the foundation of Indian democracy to the core. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, ordered Hunter and Toofani fighters of the IAF to destroy 'targets' the Mizo city of Aizwal (an incident which was later denied by the PMO). Various houses were destroyed, innocent civilians killed or injured and scores left homeless and seeking answers for the barbaric act. It was an ominous beginning to Mrs. Gandhi's tenure as India's first lady Prime Minister, and an approach to dealing with extremism that would eventually lead to her assassination in 1984.

Here is an article from NEWSLINK, published on March 5th, 2007, highlighting one of the versions of the story.


Memories of inferno still remain fresh
NEWSLINK Monday, March 05, 2007 
Bureau report

Aizawl, March 5th, 1966: Today marks the 41st anniversary of the historic Aizawl bombardment, which had turned the once-beautiful hill town Aizawl into ashes, a few days after the declaration of the "Mizoram independence" by the Laldenga-led Mizo National Front.

While Mizoram now has emerged as one of the most peaceful states and marching ahead as one of the most developing states of India, memories of the inferno still remain with those who survived the trial by fire.

"In the afternoon of March 4 1966, a flock of jet fighters hovered over Aizawl and dropped bombs leaving a number of houses in flames. The next day, a more excessive bombing took place for several hours which left most houses in Dawrpui and Chhingaveng area in ashes," recollected 62-year-old Rothangpuia in Aizawl.

According to some records, Hunter and Toofani fighters were deployed for the Aizawl bombardment, which became the first and only aerial attack India has carried out against its own people. The fighters came from Tezpur, an IAF air base in Assam. Apart from Aizawl, Tualbung and Hnahlan villages in northeast Mizoram were bombarded. Surprisingly, there were no human casualties officially reported in any of the air raids.

"In the first wave of attack the planes used machine guns and later on used bombs. The attack came in three waves, on the second day the attack lasted for about five hours," MLA Andrew Lalherliana recounted.

According to Joe Lalhmingliana, a retired wing commander of Indian Air Force, Tezpur Air Force base - which presently hangars MIG 21 Operational Flying Training Unit (MOFTU) - was the base for the Mizoram aerial attack of March 1966.

"The Indian Air Force deployed Hunter and Toofani jet fighters to carry out the mission; it was the first time India used its air force to quell a movement of any kind among its citizens. Goa was a different story, it was a move to drive away the Portuguese," the former airman said.

Till today there has been no satisfactory answer as to why India used such excessive air force against its own citizens in order to suppress an insurgency. Surprisingly, the Mizo National Front was outlawed only later in 1968.

In the aftermath of the Aizawl air raids, two MLAs of Assam, Stanley DD Nichols Roy and Hoover H Hynniewta, came to Mizoram (then Mizo district under Assam) to see with their own eyes what happened to the people of the Mizo District and were totally shocked by what they saw. Later in April, Nichols Roy moved a motion in the Assam House on the Aizawl air attack.

"The use of excessive air force for taking Aijal (the former name of Aizawl) was excessive because you can not pinpoint from the air who is loyal and who is not loyal, who is an MNF and who is somebody pledging allegiance to the Mizo Union, the ruling party in the Mizo district," Roy was quoted as speaking to the Assam chief minister by Mizo historian JV Hluna in his book 'Debates on Mizo Problems on Insurgencies, with special reference to the contributions of Stanley DD Nichols Roy, MLA and Hoover H Hynniewta, MLA.'

JV Hluna noted that a hot debate over the Mizo issue continued in the House. Nichol Roy even referred to a statement made by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi published in the Hindusthan Standard on March 9, 1966 where the PM, answering a foreign correspondent, insisted that the air force was "deployed to drop men and supplies."

"Nichols Roy stated that whether the shells of bombs, which had been dropped in Aijal, be sent to Delhi to ask the Prime Minister, 'How do you cook this ration? If these are supplies, please tell us how you cook these things'?", JV Hluna said in his book.

Strongly condemning the use of air force, the other MLA Hynniewta produced photographs of one unexploded bomb and some fragments of exploded bombs as proof of the Aizawl air attack, which was strongly denied by the Government of India.

"We touched it, we measured it and we took photograph of it. We have fragments of the bombs. We have the testimony of hundreds of people who have heard the explosions the moment the planes flew over in Mizo Hills," Hynniewta addressed the chief minister. "If you want to suppress the MNF rebellion, ordinary bullets are sufficient. From any point of view, military, physical or economic, these weapons should never have been used," the MLA told the House.

"Given that the only sources of information regarding the insurgency in Mizoram for the outside world were the words of the Assam chief minister, the Assam chief secretary and the Prime Minister (who on the other hand denied the air attack), the contributions of the two MLAs were very notable," JV Hluna said.

Since the MNF rebels had already taken Army installations in Champhai, Lunglei and Saitual in the initial stage of the rebellion and Aizawl in danger of being overpowered, the Indian Government might have been too nervous to have second thoughts about an aerial attack on its own territory.


Toofani Fighter A/C of Sqn 29, Tezpur AFS
Image Source: Bharat Rakshak

Hunter Fighter A/C of Sqn 27, IAF
Image Source: Bharat Rakshak

48 comments:

  1. Govt should not use any such weopon to kill people. It is fact that no one can justify the uses of air power.

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  2. @Pravez

    I think Indira Gandhi had this feeling of being invincible which finally got her. Be it Aizwal or the Golden Temple, using the armed forces to quell a movement started by the citizens of the country was one of the darkest chapters in the history of India.

    The current Congress Govt. is being well advised by the service chiefs to look elsewhere when the need to tackle the Maoists arises. It is a policy, which if respected, will go a long way in safeguarding India and it's people.

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  3. It was political myopia and the feeling of insecurity in Indian psyche in those days. Ass to it the activities of China in far east and these people were playing in hands of China and Burma to an extent. Pakistan was not divided and the corridor was a problem for New Delhi. There were only two options - one to allow India to disintegrate and this will allow a cascading effect across or put the heat on enemies. No doubt civilians were hurt as well and then insurgency and fight got prolonged. But that was right thing to do as was Golden Temple where terrorists were hiding. Indira Gandhi maybe anything, but she was not standing for India - I cannot agree to that.

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  4. I am appalled by what the then PM did and asserted her denial. It is true such arrangance was the cause for her down-fall then and loss of her own and eventually her two sons to violence.
    Voilence if dealt with greater violence will only perpetuate voilence. Because in the cross-fire the innocent are put to suffering and left with no option but to give support to either side and the continued of endurance of voilence leave them in a state depravity and misery.
    Any peaceful initisatives in this context will gain support seeking respite and relief.
    Responsible members of civil society members in the local community should take such initiatives boldly even at the risk of being subjected hardfship from both the State machienery and the extremist groupings.

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  5. Don't think it will be used again ... with such a calculating Defence Minister in power, he will consider all alternative options before jumping the gun. The PM obviously has more say on what to do, but I expect Antony to calm down the nerves inside PMO and 10 Janpath.

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  6. Though i do not agree fully with the use of lethal force myself, yet i request roger and all those who have commented to justify the killing of 76 crpf personnel who were brutually murdered. Naxals are not ready to talk and lay down arms. if u ever come out of your cozy offices and get to interact with the security personnel who are laying down their lives or even if u interact with journalists who have gone and met the naxals, u will come to know that the ordinary tribals are being mislead and brainwashed and have no cause or aim. They just say i have to kill the soldiers....brutally. And they have proved it time and again. i THINK THEY DESERVE THE SAME TREATMENT MULTIPLIED 10 TIMES.

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    Replies
    1. genius,its not about the militants we are talking aobut here.its the civilians caught in the middle!capiche??

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  7. @ Anon 3:15AM ... where and when did I justify the killing of the 76 CRPF personnel? I too come from a defence background and I am very well aware of the sacrifices made by our soldiers, and would like to see an end to this voilence. However, remember Mahatma Gandhi's proverb ... "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind".

    Also, a movement cannot end completely until it is voluntarily ended by those who started it. If we wipe out one group of Maoists with cluster bombs all over the jungles, another group somewhere else will rise and the same issue will haunt us 5 years down the line.

    We need to train our law enforcement agencies better and equip them better to handle these scenarios. What we also need is mobilization of resources at a moment's notice. Remember what happened to when YSR's chopper was lost? An army of people and equipment was launched within hours of his chopper going missing. If we want to, we can get rid of the problem of Maoists. However, lack of political will translates to the use or calls of using the easily accessible, and sometimes "disposable" armed forces (army/air force). That is what I am against.

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  8. @ Anon 3:15 ... read this boss!

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Cops-stealing-bullets-for-Maoists-to-kill-men-in-khaki/articleshow/5878724.cms

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  9. Well I think the startegic intent behind the use of Air Force in Mizoram was correct in my opinion. The Americans used the same kind of bombing tactics during the Battle of Khe Sanh in order to liquidate the enemy who had positioned itself in perfect places of ambush and cover in the region of thick jungles.

    In the case of Mizoram the insurgents were not only hiding in residential areas in heavy numbers but also in the thick forests around the towns mentioned.They otherwise could only have been liquidated by the ground forces who would have suffered high casualties owing to the enemy being entrenched in more advantageous positions along with enjoying the local support of the people of mizoram.

    The objective was clear we had to win back Mizoram which had dared to secede from Indian Union and the means used were best as they managed to secure the objectives with least possible loss to our own armed forces.

    As far people of Mizoram were concerned my sympathies are with them but they invited this on their own head as they gave their blind support to MNF which was involved in a lot of cold killings of Indian security personnel in the early days of insurgency of 1966.

    Jai Bharat!!

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    Replies
    1. the thing is the govt. of india is not accepting what happened..this got me angry..they should accept...right or wrong doesn't matter.

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    2. Why won't they support the MNF. Look at the root cause of this movement- the bamboo flowering followed by the famine. It was not the Govt. of India who lend a helping hand but the MNF-Mizo National Famine Front then. Who could betray the hand that feed them.

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  10. Also I would like to say that we Indians must shed away our foolish tendencies of looking at war with the glasses of Gandhian Idealism and Nehruvian Utopianism.

    One must try to subdue the enemy without war but when war does takes place then it is waged to make the adversary submit to your will by means of voilence and fear.Hence we should leave these Idealisms aside and pursue the pragmatism of war as propounded by the Great German Military General - Clausewitz

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    Replies
    1. Sure....I hope you're able to say that to the eyes of some of my grand parents and their friends after they tell you how the Indian army dismembered their bodies, raped their women and looted their homes.

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  11. ,,,,Using Air Strike against own citizen,,,''SHAMEFUL & COWARDICE ACT'',,,I Think Indian Arm Forces were not courageous enough to tackle the situation on ground,,bloody IAF,,....Poor Mizos,,Poor Manipuris 4 being surviving under ARMS FORCE SPECIAL POWER ACT,,,Long Live IROM SHARMILA,,,Long Live NSCN,,,Long Live ULFA,,,Long Live NDLF,,,,GOD BLESS NORTH EAST INDIA!!!LONG LIVE NORTH EAST!!!

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  12. the indian army have no BALLS to face MNF.... if MNF had the weapon as the indian army do they'll surely win the war....coward indian army... they are suppose to fight against MNF not the civilian
    they rape thousand of mizo women/girl and they call themselves proud india army...bullshit.. they burn down the villages,killing the civilian,raping women in public...fuck india army

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  13. Indian Political Leader less bother about North East India. From Last 64 years they are taking out Petrolatum Product's, TEA, Wood's and now they are looking for Radio Active Cores from North East. But Par Capita/Person income is Rs. 15464.
    But Our MAL and MP's are busy to increase there Bank Balance and power.

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  14. To kill our own indian people was completely unexpainable and horrific... We all saw what happened as a result of that. The PM lost her life beccause she had the feeling she was invincible ....... Acts like these are brutal and should never happen in future... If we have so much firepower, BOMB our ENEMIES...

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  15. IT's "AIZAWL"!!!!!!!!!!!!!! not AIZWAL

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  16. Hey, good to see that some people know about this... It's AIZAWL btw, not AIZWAL... :)

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  17. Aizawl rules..!!!

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  18. its an act of exploitation of humaninity in the extreme....shame on them....

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  19. @Komerad Neelabh : your reflect the sentiments of most "mainland Indians",,,,,,,,, we the tribes of Mizo will never forget our struggle and sufferings,..

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    Replies
    1. Mizo People died of famine, their cries unheard, MNF came out to feed its people,, This brought Political/historical awareness to the people who put their faith on MNF. then Mighty India with all its might crushed the movement rather than trying to heal the deep discontent that arose from the Famine. Mizo were bombarded, killed, jailed, tortured, raped, looted, burned by one of the world's largest military forces while the world watches....

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  20. ''Surprisingly, there were no human casualties officially reported in any of the air raids''.

    Guys..remember that there were lots of pwople who suffered this..though India dont want to listen..but we, the people of Mizoram called Mizo, still remember and will never forget this.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. It's AIZAWL not Aizwal. If you guys can spell PRAWN correctly why not Aizawl. Wouldn't you mind me spelling Delhi as Dili?

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  22. An EYE for a EYE and a DICK for a DICK. That's how it goes. Gandhi was a fucking faggit. Look at at his size, that explains everything, does it not? Say, if someone rapes your wife what do you do? Offer him your mother too?

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    Replies
    1. keep your shit ideology to yourself.

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  23. It is mere sign of shortsightedness to react to situations...
    We are reacting in favour or against the MNF uprising and the air attacks of 1966 in aizawl and also abt the maoist nuisance....Do we ever realise what prompted these situations to develop...Why did MNF even thought of rising their head or the maoists...I hail from Bengal and my mom is from Assam...I have seen the abject apathy of the central Govt in north east as well as the deprivation of people in the maoist dominated areas of bengal...
    Before even jumping into a conclusion, I would request all concerned to read about the famine that hit the Lushai hills in 1965 and the callous response of the Assam govt and the central govt to such a situation...Also, read the scorched earth policy adopted by the central govt in upper assam and lushai hills during 1962 war...Everythng arises out of some reason...also, do read about the CPI(M) govts blind eyes towards development of midnapore,bankura ,jhargram and birbhum districts of bengal which now reels under maoist influence..Did the bengal govt do anythng fr the ppl of those regions?? no is the answer...
    Hence I urge everyone to look into the cause of any situation, rather than simply commenting of what is happening currently in front of our eyes...

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  24. Hi Anon of 25 April - could you please tell me where you read about the scorched earth policy of 1962? I am interested in knowing more about it. Thanks

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  25. @Komerad Neelabh you have to see it from our point of view, your words reflect the stereotypical mind set of a mainland Indian.

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  26. Its seriously atrocious!!!! Even the Nagas were greatly mistreated and tortured by the Indian soldiers. I read that brothers and sisters were forced to consummate inside a church!!!!!!!! How would they like it if some foreigners force them to mate with their own sisters/brothers inside a Hindu temple.....?

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  27. India doesn't have the guts to use it's mighty airforce on Naxals, or on kashmiris, but it had no problem whatsoever to use it on the Mizos. I think ethnicity and the "heat of the moment" was to blame. Mizos being mongoloid, and india, at that time a defeated nation at the hands of another mongoloid race, the Chinese tried to avenge its humiliation by....aerial bombing civilians...Heroic indeed! Jay Bharat!

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  28. Mr. Komared Neelabh, I just read your comments about bombing Aizawl, which is the capital of Mizoram on March 4, 1966; I really appreciate your courage to speak out your opinion. However, I humbly ask you to think it beyond your opinion. Does the movement stop because of cruel actions? Was it the reason MNF surrendered to the Govt. of India in 1986 under Prime Ministership of Late Rajiv Gandhi? I strongly believe that a cruel actions never heal the pain but it hurts more. Also, I simply request you kindly to find out why some leaders of Mizos during that time wanted to separate from India. Do you believe that that movement had happened without a reason?

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  29. I cannot cease to be amazed by the incredible cruelty of this act nor by the spinelessness of the political and military leadership to have allowed such an act!

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  30. We Mizo are still aggrieved with the Airforce bombardment of Aizawl and various part of Mizoram and still lingers in our minds. The Indian Government should condemn such cruelty bombardment and should also ask forgiveness to the Mizo people.

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    Replies
    1. Instead they have put up a dummy IAF aircraft outside Lengpui airport to rub salt into our wounds- sheer callousness or wickedness

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  31. The problem of Indian government and its myopic thinking can only change when in the government there are leaders representing from allparts of India, i mean in the Cabinet,but it democracy when MAJORITY rules, one cant expect the representation to be equal form Arunachal. One AM and on the other hand more than 100...and so minority states will always be deprives, suppressed, the rich will rule the poor, the powerful will dominate the weaker....and the UPRISING begins....

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  32. fuck the Indian Govt and the Indian Army

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  33. No wonder people were upset. A geographic bottleneck and economic stagnancy crippled this state of India. Such heinous use of state appointed terror is unwarranted for. this is inhumane and impractical.

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  36. i would blame the indian people. why they do not remember of slave in english colony. they throw their dignity which is they also mentioned that they belove freedom. mizo is not only hunger food but also hunger justice, freedon and respective. i guess please let them go. (From Dai Khan Lal)

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  37. well...why is Congress still in power in Aizawl then...why do the Mizos still welcome the Indira Gandhi legacy. I haven't hear a single Mizo demand for an official apology from either the Congress party or the Indian Govt? do they have such short memory or they simply do not care?

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  38. It's shocking to find that the IAF considers the act of bombarding innocent civilians belonging the small state a feather in its crown! We are justifying the acts of that paranoid woman who was not above bumping off even her friends and relatives.

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