Armed forces

Accounts Differ on ‘Cross-Border’ Army Clash with NSCN(K)

New Delhi: A fierce encounter between the Indian army’s special forces and the banned separatist outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K) took place along the Indo-Myanmar border early Friday morning.

Though some media reports quoted a Nagaland police official posted in the state’s Mon district bordering Myanmar as saying that the encounter took place in a village inside Myanmar, the same sources later denied it to The Wire.

Early on Saturday, Yangba Konyak, the superindentent of police of Mon told the Hindustan Times that he saw as army commandos returning from across the Myanmar border on reaching the spot after getting  information about the encounter. The report said that as per local district officials, the gunbattle took place around 3 a.m. on Friday and went on for two-three hours.

“The gunfight took place beyond Thorloi, a village in Myanmar two kilometres from the border. They had no casualty and I don’t know if the NSCN-K suffered any loss,” Konyak told the newspaper. He said he saw about 30 commandos when they returned, adding, “This makes a platoon.”

The statement was contrary to  defence ministry sources which maintained that the security forces didn’t cross the border.

However, speaking to The Wire on Saturday evening, Yangba retracted his earlier statement. “I reached the border around 12 noon on Friday after gettinjg 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 asked about why he named Thorloi, a village in Myanmar, earlier, he replied, “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.”

In June last year, though the Indian army said it launched an attack on NSCN (K) in two places along the Indo Myanmar border after 18 Assam Rifles men were killed in an ambush by the outfit, minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore was quoted in the media as saying that it was a cross-border operation, “unprecedented and extremely bold.”

This time too, though defence sources have denied staging a cross border operation, All India Radio, which comes under Rathore’s ministry, claimed it was inside Myanmar. AIR tweeted, saying, “Indian Army paratroopers hit an NSCN-K camp located inside Myanmar, near Throilu village of Mon district.”

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Last year’s cross-border operation by the army- our, rather, the fact that India chose to publicize it – reportedly didn’t go down well with the Myanmarese government. News of  Friday’s encounter  comes on the heels of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s planned visit to Myanmar beginning August 22.

In an email sent to the Hindustan Times on Saturday, the NSCN (K) too claimed the encounter took place inside Myanmar. The email said the Indian Army’s 12 Para commandos entered Myanmar and were spotted by the outfit’s men, leading to the encounter.

The NSCN (K) also claimed it killed “five to six” Indian soldiers in the encounter. However,  defence sources stated that there was no report of any casualty so far. A PTI report quoting defence sources said the militants who were trying to enter into the country went back leaving behind many of their weapons, including AK-47 rifles and ammunition.

The NSCN (K) walked out of a 14-year-old ceasefire with the Indian government in March last year to restart its  operations aginst it. It joined hands with other separatist outfits operating in the north east under the banner of the umbrella organisation United Liberation Front of South Asia and has been launching some attacks in the area.