Sadly on the day itself, I could not able to enjoy the beauty of the place fully as the visited team encountered an unfortunate incident just before reaching Kotlen. In between grabbing the nuances of the place, my mind was suddenly struck with an incident of firing as a fierce gun battle broke out between security forces and militants. It was took place at Al Hingjol village located nearby Kotlen. The team came across about the news of firing after we query seeing at a long queue of vehicles lining up along the way. The road stretch happened to be a place where central security forces used to carry out R.O.P. on daily basis.
On that day, some unidentified militants spray bullets at two C.R.P.F. personnel which were on R.O.P. duty and snatched away weapons from them before the militants ran along a gorge. In the aftermath, security personnel in addition with reinforcement forces which came down from its base camp retaliate at the militants using weapons like rocket launchers. As of the heavy firing, vehicles including passenger buses got stranded along the way.
In the wake of the gun firing, people whom we met across the road told us not to proceed further. After revealing to them that we are from the press and informing that we would pass by according to the situation, the team further headed along the firing place. I guess such is the task of a journalist and one should able to cull news and information at any situation.
Then instantly, my fellow colleagues were seen passing news on the firing incident through phones to their respective media houses back to Imphal. Accordingly, I also did the same thing. There, the team had a discussion concluding that we shall proceed up to the place we can. Then after our vehicle passed through a couples of landscape along the hill road, the team heard a loud sound of bomb blast.
“Hey! It is a bomb”- This is the reaction which we reacted after hearing the massive sound. Since the blast site happened to be in a hill area, it seems that the sound of the blast was coming in enormous magnitude with an echo. There, we were having a serious talk discussing whether we should rush at the blast site or not. As the rumour of casualty and dead of three security personnel reached us, some colleagues expressed apprehension that it would be better if the team do not went at the site. The matter was indeed a serious one; it held everyone in a dilemma. There was in everyone mind that it would not be easy to enter at the site in between the exchange of firing. Moreover, it was a big risk to take it as the incident involved severe casualty and dead. It was even more dangerous considering the fact that the State is also under the ambit of Armed Forces Special Power Acts (AFSPA) where there is provision of giving certain rights and power to security forces. For instances, there is not difference between a journalist and a civilian when it comes in a highly tense volatile situation. There have been many incidents where journalists were beaten up. Considering the ethics of journalists, we came to a conclusion that we shall proceed up to the spot as much as we can. Then, forgetting about the risk and danger that prevails around us, we started heading towards the firing place to draw information about the casualty and dead resulting from the incident.
While heading to the place, the team met a convoy of Assam Rifles, one of the battalions based at Singjamei Chingamathak. They are also on the same route for a visit to Silchar. Then, by having conversation with them, the team halted for a while. In between, some members of the team even used binoculars of them trying to see movements of the militants. Then after the sound of gun and bomb came to ease, we along with the troops of Assam Rifles headed together further to the place.
As we reached at the spot, personnel of C.R.P.F. gave gesture towards us saying not to enter at the place where two of their forces were killed. Looking at their expression, it seems that they were deeply hurt due to the dead of their two colleagues and we were told not to capture photos of the personnel which were found lying nearby the road. Contradict to their words, every members of the team were seen trying to shoot videos and photos of the deceased secretly. And, at last the team were able in doing this.
According to latest reports, it was later found that the ambush was carried out by Lalhouba Tengol, armed wing of the banned outfit Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) in which two personnel namely Manjunath and Maktayam, both from West Bengal of 109th Battalion, C.R.P.F. was killed and another personnel identified as Sumant Nath Dev was also injured in the attack. Further, it stated that the militants also snatched away one LMG and INSAS Rifles from the deceased. As of the attack, house of Paomei, village chief of Al Hingjol Village was left torn after a Lathod bomb blasted at the top of the house which is covered by sheets. In there, several household items were also destroyed due to the blast. However, there was no report of civilian injured in the attack.
To be continued/-
Translated by Rakesh Lourembam, Manipur Times.