New Delhi: In an early morning counter militancy operation on the India-Myanmar border, the Indian army “brought down heavy retaliatory fire” on “unidentified insurgents,” the Eastern Command said in a statement on September 27.
Though the Eastern Command initially named the Khaplang faction of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K), the statement does not mention any insurgent group. Also, contrary to reports in a section of the media, the statement categorically said, “It is reiterated that own troops didn’t cross the international border.”
Detailed statement attached pic.twitter.com/nbLYMLCqxQ
— EasternCommand_IA (@easterncomd) September 27, 2017
The army statement maintained that it didn’t suffer any casualties in the exchange of fire and added, “As per inputs, a large number of casualties were suffered by the insurgents”. The army said one of its columns operating along the border was fired upon by “unidentified insurgents” at about 4:45 am.
“Our troops reacted swiftly and brought down heavily retaliatory fire on insurgents. The insurgents then broke contact and fled from the spot. As per inputs, a large number of casualties were suffered by the insurgents. Own troops suffered no casualties,” the statement added.
However, Isak Sumi, a senior Yangon-based NSCN (K) cadre, claimed on social media around noon that the encounter took place “10-15 kms away” inside the Myanmar border.
Sumi, who created a sensation in January by posting a photograph of Vikram Misri, the Indian envoy to Myanmar, along with top members of NSCN (K) including its “military commander” Nikki Sumi, who has the India government’s bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head, said on September 26, “The encounter started around 3 AM when the Elite Unit of the Naga Army (NSCN-K) detected a column of Indian Army approaching their temporary makeshift camp in the outskirt of the Langkhu village located inside Myanmar occupied Naga area, 10-15 kms away from the border. The exchange was continuing till the time of filing this report.”
He also claimed in the Facebook update, “Three Indian soldiers have been killed and unconfirmed number injured.” He claimed, “No casualty or injury on the Naga Army (NSCN-K).”
In June 2015, the army conducted a similar operation against NSCN (K) following the killing of 18 soldiers in an ambush in Chandel district of Manipur. The army action inside Myanmar reportedly led to “some heartburn” in the Myanmar government, following which its military chief senior general Min Aung Hlaing visited New Delhi on an eight-day trip.
In August 2016, a fierce encounter took place between NSCN (K) cadres and the army’s special forces. Yangba Konyak, the superintendent of police in Mon, close to where the encounter took place, told the Hindustan Times at the time that he saw army commandoes returning from Thorloi, a village in Myanmar. He later retracted it while speaking to The Wire.
Yangba then told this correspondent, “I reached the border around 12 noon on Friday (August 19, 2016) after getting to know of the encounter. I didn’t speak to the army officials but as per information we later got, it took place inside the border, in Chenmoho village, near the border pillar no 151,” he said.
On being asked about why he had named Thorloi, a village in Myanmar, earlier, he said, “Thorloi is near Chenmoho, it is a very remote area without roads. I wasn’t on the ground; I can’t say for sure. I said earlier what I heard then and now I am saying what I heard later.”