Arindam Nath

Today is October 19, 2018, the Bijoya Dashami. It is also known as Dasahara, Dusshera, Dasara, Dussehra or Dashainis. It is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navratri every year. It is observed in the autumn and typically falls in the months of September and October. Actually, the festive season generally begins on September, 17 with the Viswakarma Puja and ends with Diwali or Dipavali, the festival of lights. Vijayadashami marks the end of Durga Puja, remembering goddess Durga's victory over the buffalo demon Mahishasura to help restore dharma. This is my 30th year as police officer. There is a saying, 'Cops busy, people happy!' When the civilians enjoy the festivity, we the police personnel remain on the street to ensure safety and security of pilgrims. I am happy that during this period, not even for a single occasion I have faltered.


Amidst these festivities we observe a sombre occasion, the Police Commemoration Day. It is observed on October 21 every year, as a remembrance of the sacrifice of ten policemen who died in Chinese firing. Chinese troops opened fire and threw grenades at a party of 20 police personnel on October 21, 1959. Ten police personnel were killed in the incident, which left seven others injured. They were later taken as prisoners. Three weeks later, China returned the bodies of the ten personnel. They were later cremated with full police honours at Hot Springs in North Eastern Ladakh. Police personnel were manning the 2,500 mile long border of India with Tibet until the autumn of 1959. A memorial was erected at Hot Springs and members of Police Forces from different parts of the country trek to Hot Springs to pay homage to the martyrs. Since independence, 34,832 police personnel have lost their lives while protecting the country. In the past one year, 414 police personnel have died from September 2017 to August 2018. The list includes accidental deaths while on duty. Tripura Police has one casualty, namely Santosh Saha, a Head Constable of Special Armed Force (SAF) of who laid down his life while protecting a VIP. The escort vehicle in which he was travelling met a road accident.


"Let this soul, newly awakened and refulgent

Be initiated into the path of offering this life."


The dreaded phase of insurgency in our extremely beautiful and picturesque state of Tripura with abundance of greenery had been started by two banned extremist groups All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and National Liberation of Twipra (NLFT).  In fact, both these organizations had declared their emergence when I joined police service. Not only I have seen their genesis but also actively participated in ensuring their fall. I feel elated whenever I introspect our saga of eliminating these ugrapanthi demon Mahishasuras by Tripura Police with active support from paramilitary forces. The actual champions are the common masses without whose support the task could never be accomplished. But, in the process we lost many of our comrades of Tripura Police including Home Guards and Special Police Officers (SPO), Paramilitary forces and even Army who sacrificed their life.


"Let blocks and bars be the teacher-

Let cruel crises bestow reverence,

Let sorrow alone be the true wealth."


Somehow, I find relevance between the battle of Goddess Durga conquering Mahishasura and our efforts of eradication of insurgency in the state. It's based on an idea on Navaratri received through social media. The period of nine nights can be divided into three segments, first three nights for goddess Durga, second three nights for goddess Laxmi and the last three nights for goddess Saraswati. In the first phase we fight tooth and nails with the ashuras like Devi Durga. It is basically the learning process of our life. In the second phase, we earn wealth. This wealth may not necessarily be the physical wealth, but it may be our database and information about our target. In the third phase we sharpen our intellect and move towards attaining moksha. As we approach Vijayadashami, we shed our egos and become equals, embrace each other. In the three decades of fight against the extremists, I have also undergone this spiritual journey and I must admit that I have enjoyed it very much.


In the first decade of our fight against the insurgency, we suffered the most as we were not fully equipped. The extremists with the support from foreign forces had better weaponry with them. We had very little manpower to cope up with the vastness of the problem. During this period, Devi Durga provided us the moral courage and we continued to fight against all adversaries. In the second decade, more and more Police modernization took place. Our fire-power increased along with our fighting manpower. Tripura State Rifles (TSR) is the pride of Tripura Police and during this period two third of the TSR Battalions were practically raised. The numbers of extremist incidents also came down as we approached the third decade, so we concentrated more on psychological operations against the extremists and bringing them to the mainstream of life. The divisive forces of yesteryears have become good Samaritan and now joined in nation building. As per my count, in these three decades of insurgency Tripura Police have witnessed the sacrifices of at least one hundred thirty-three martyrs and most of them were my colleagues, either directly or indirectly. I beg pardon that because of time constraints I shall touch upon only three incidents. They were my close aides.


"Eternal spring of vigor forever sprinkles life

Be cleansed in that and be purified."


In my entire police life till this date, I have not come across a police person as amiable as late Amol Bikash Chakma. It was the beginning 1993 and we were going through the Assembly Election process. I was SDPO Udaipur. It was my first posting just after completion of my probation and so little inexperienced. My boss attached him with my office for my assistance. By that time Amol Bikash Chakma had put on nearly twelve years of service having joined the service directly as Sub-Inspector of Police in 1981. So, it was expected that he would have some ego in serving under an officer who his younger to him both in terms age and policing. But he turned out to be a perfect complement for me. We accomplished the election duty with flying colours. Soon after election, new government was formed and he was posted to other district. Occasionally, we met in police functions and he used to be the first person to greet me with beaming face. In the meantime he earned his berth as DSP through promotion and got posting in newly created Dhalai District. Then I heard the sad news which put me in grief for quite some time.


It was December 20, 1996 and Amol Bikash Chakma was holding the charge of SDPO Longtorai Valley. Entire Dhalai district was reeling under insurgency and in particular the Longtorai Valley Sub-Division. Around seven in the morning, one bus carrying passengers was coming towards Manu from Nepaltilla via Dhumacherra. An armed extremist group stopped the vehicle by showing country made guns when it reached a tribal hamlet called Karaticherra under Manu police station. Then, after looting the belonging of passengers and kidnapping two persons, namely Prabhat Dhar of Nepaltilla and Gopal Deb of Karaticherra, they sent a letter through the driver of the vehicle to the officer-in-charge of Manu police station giving a challenge for their rescue. It was a clever plan of a strong NLFT extremist group comprising two NSCN members. Deliberately they didn't expose their sophisticated weapons before the bus passengers.


Being a tribal officer, Amol Bikash Chakma had belief that armed tribal extremist group would not target him and so he was leading a police contingent in five vehicles immediately afterwards. In the meantime, killing the two kidnapped persons and keeping their bodies on the road at Karaticherra, the extremist group waylaid by the side of serpentine terrain of the Longtorai Hill Ranges. At about 9-30 in the morning, no sooner had the vehicle of SDPO stopped near the dead bodies than they were sprayed with bullets by the extremists’ sophisticated weapons. They also lobbed hand grenades. The Maruti Gypsy used by the SDPO caught fire and it blew off like a fire-ball. The first two vehicles were hit. The remaining troops led by Rajendra Dutta, officer-in-charge Manu police station took position and retaliated by firing from their weapons, preventing further damage. Total seven police personnel including Amol Bikash Chakma laid down their lives. The others were Gourango Majumder, Mangol Debbarma, Parbati Sarkar, Promod Banik, Bijoy Banik and Prem Mohan Jamatia, all Constables of Tripura Police. Ten years down the line, on August 17, 2006 while I was posted as SP Dhalai, twenty-one NLFT extremists surrendered before me at Dhumacherra and they deposited thirteen sophisticated weapons including one LMG. On that occasion we were successful in creating division in their group as they killed four of their comrades who were opposing surrender. Everything is fair in love and war and it was a psychological battle.


 "Come on traveler fare night and day.

Make a quest for the eternal life-giving way."


I first met late SI Sadhan Nandi after joining as Additional SP in undivided South Tripura district in October, 1998. It was my second innings in that district. He was posted as the officer-in-charge of Natunbazar Police Station. From the very first meeting I loved the officer for his professional excellence. He had risen from ranks and possessed a rare quality of gathering intelligence. Besides, he had a pleasing personality. Natunbazar Police Station was one of the worst affected areas in terms of insurgency. We used to share many jovial moments, thereby to get relief from the stress of fighting against the insurgents. His death is a personal loss for me.


Saralpada Jamatia was a SS Warrant Officer of NLFT extremist group from Nazila Dumbur area under Killa Police Station. His group was operating in the Nutanbazar Police Station area and responsible for kidnapping, murder, extortion and other illegal activities. He had a ladylove in the form of a Reang girl at Naisafa Para under Nutanbazar Police Station. Saralpada occasionally preferred to visit the village for meeting his lover.  Sadhan Nandi was cultivating the information through his sources. On March 14, 1999 he came to know from his sources that Saralpada Jamatia would be visiting the village in the evening with his group and spend some time. Accordingly, Sadhan Nandi chalked out a plan of cordoning the village and carrying out search. As per his requisition, Shri Tapan Goswami, SDPO Amarpur, Shri Dhirendra Chandra Das, CI Natunbazar, Somprakash, an Assistant Commandant of CRPF with police and CRPF staff came for his assistance. They formed three parties, two led by SDPO and CI would cordon the village from two sides and block the escape routes of extremist group while Sadhan Nandi and Somprakash would lead the search party. As per plan, the operational groups cordoned the village stealthily by around eight in the evening. The search party also reached the target and found Saralpada Jamatia in compromising condition with his lover. One loaded carbine was lying by his side. It was immediately grabbed by Sadhan Nandi. Mr. Somprakash and one CRPF constable Jarnal Singh were with Nandi. They asked the girl to leave the room without knowing that Saralpada Jamatia possessed a Chinese grenade. No sooner had the girl left the bamboo hut than the fugitive released the lever of grenade. It exploded like a booby-trap killing all the four persons who were inside the room.


 "Overcome the dark indolence

Fling away the mesh of weariness

At day's end as victorious

Transcend death and be purity itself."


It was June 17, 2000. I was holding the charge of SP South Tripura District. The previous night I received information that my DGP would be visiting Jatanbari under Natunbazar Police Station by chopper with another senior officer. Since I was at Udaipur, I decided to carry out the one and half hour journey in the morning. There was a lull in the extremist activities after the TTAADC Election 2000. Even then, I decided to take one extra escort vehicles in addition to the normal two escort vehicles, since the ROP on Amarpur-Natunbazar road would not be in position by that time. Reaching Daluma, I enquired at the gate of TSR 5th Battalion Headquarters if ROP was laid. I got negative reply, but came to know that one DCO of CRPF Battalion had just proceeded towards Natunbazar from Amarpur. So, I preferred to move ahead and reached Paharpur on Amarpur-Natunbazar road, about two kilometers from the TSR Headquarters. Suddenly, there was a booming sound and my vehicle which was second in the convoy stopped, resulting forced stoppage of other two rear vehicles. Momentarily, I thought that it was a tyre burst but soon I realized that we were ambushed by the extremists. I jumped towards the small hillock from which the insurgents were spraying bullets from automatic weapons. But, none the less, it was giving a good cover to me as I managed to cross the beating zone. Meanwhile, the police personnel of one escort vehicle which was out of the beating zone took position and gave solid retaliatory covering fire. It gave us chance to take position and challenge the attackers with bullets. The fight continued for about ten minutes. Finally, the extremists made escape taking the advantage of forest and undulated grounds. But, before that they lobbed two grenades which caused injuries upon five of my colleagues Surjya Debbarma, Jiban Paul, Surajit Sarkar, Sushil Das and Nayanjyoti Chakma. One leg of Constable Surjya Debbarma was blown off due to grenade explosion. We managed to protect our arms and weapons but lost our comrade Surjya Debbarma who succumbed to his injuries on way to G B Hospital via Udaipur.


It is an irreparable loss for me. I have dedicated my book 'NAM REKHECHI BANALATA', to the memory of late  Surjya Debbarma and other police personnel who had toiled hard and shed blood   standing alongside me in the insurgency days, and these days as well. I adore the sacrifices of our martyrs.

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