When the Indian Air Force bombed Aizawl

In the aftermath of the massacre of 76 security personnel by the Naxals in Chhattisgarh, a debate is on regarding the use of air power against the leftist militants.

While the government might still be contemplating about initiating such action, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for India.

[I had, almost five years ago, posted a post on this blog, but am not able to locate it now. Thankfully, found it in the email inbox. Reposting.]

It is a little known fact but perhaps the only instance in history where a country conducted an air raid on its own territory, against its citizens. On March 5-6, 1966 the Indian Air Force carried out air raids on the town Aizawl, in Mizoram, to soften the situation, so that the Indian military can recapture the town.

This dark chapter of Indian anti-insurgency history remains shrouded in the classified files. Very few people have spoken about it.

Gen. (Retd.) DK Palit states “… 5th March was the crucial day. At last, at 1130hrs came the air strike, IAF fighters strafing hostile positions all around the battalion area. The strafing was repeated in the afternoon… (6th March)… There was another air strike that day and that put paid to the investment. The hostiles melted away.”

[Gen. (Retd) DK Palit, Sentinels of the North East: The Assam Rifles, p. 264.]

Shobhit (in a comment to this post) asked for a more information on the incident. Here it is:

In 1958 there was a famine (locally called Mautam – meaning bamboo death in Mizo) in the Lushai Hills area of Assam (now Mizoram). Disillusioned with the lack of administrative aid during the famine, the Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF) was formed.

The MNFF in 1961 changed its name to Mizo National Front (MNF), an armed political organisation. The MNF waged a secessionist movement against the Indian state. In early 1966 parts of Lushai Hills including the district headquarters, Aizawl, slipped out of the administration’s hands into MNF control.

The Indian government, in an attempt to regain control over the rebel occupied regions, called in Air Force fighter planes from the Tezpur air base. The town of Aizawl and Tualbung and Hnahlan villages were bombarded.

The administration also moved out people from villages in the hills and resettled them in regrouped villages along the highways as a counter insurgency measure.

Though the government was successful in regaining control over Aizawl town, the insurgency continued for 20 years and ended with the signing of the Mizoram Accord between the Government of India and the MNF in 1986.

Pu Laldenga, the founder of the MNF, was sworn in as the Chief Minister of the newly crafted state of Mizoram in 1986.

  • Shobhit Sujay

    This is certainly an important piece of information. Hardly anyone knows or speaks about this instance. However, it still needs to be elaborated a bit about who exactly were attacked in this. But as far as the present situation is concerned, I guess it’s practically impossible for India to wipe out the Naxal forces without involving the armed forces in the operation.

  • Soumyadip

    @Shobhit I’ve now added additional info explaining the backgrounder of the incident.

    It is indeed strange that every time there is an internal emergency the Army has to be called in. The Army isn’t meant for that. Paramilitary forces like the CRPF and Assam Rifles are there to take care of internal contingencies. But call in the Army seems to be the only solution that people have in mind.

    The involvement of the Army hasn’t been able to wipe out militancy in Kashmir, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. In Mizoram, what the use of force failed to do a peace accord did.

    In Punjab, it was the police that played the pivotal role in putting an end to militancy (though the means are debatable).

    The armed forces are only an option and not the ultimate solution for all our ills.

  • Sumit Lanong

    The IAF actually didnt bomb the towns in a literal manner.They bombed a Football field which was strategically located in the middle of the Aizawl town after a football match was completed and they made sure that there would be no civilian casualties.It was psychological warfare and nothing else!The poor rebels caved in.The MNF struggle was so severe and the famine was similar to the bengal famine during the days of the Raj that the mizos had to resort to traditional medicines like drinking goats blood to cure Hepatitis infection e.t.c.
    Towns like Vairangte and Kolasib were crated along the NH so as to assist the Indian Army(The new Raj)in administering the hapless mizos.
    Mizoram slowly came back to the fold.Unfortunately Nagaland will probably follow suit someday and cave in as the Indian Government scored some brownie points with General Than shwe and his Junta cronies in Burma!
    The fact is Maoists are fighting a “Legit war”with the “Have’s”of India which are restricted in the urban jungle!
    Most Maoists dont want end up like a slum-dog Indian! (Bitter pill to swallow but thats a fact)
    p:s:The PLA is keeping the pot boiling in Arunachal and Ladakh for the same reason,no doubt the chinese are now 30 years ahead of us instead of 20 when it comes to strategic depth!:)

  • Lalthianghlima

    The indian air force did bomb the Aizawl town and Tuipang in the year 1966.I was a little boy when Tuipang was bomb,my father served in the indian army as signal personel .It was around 11am,the MNF army came closer and closer towards the camp almost captured the camp and that the commander had ordered my father to sent S.O.S signal and in a few minutes fighters was seen.The camp stood at hill top of the Tuipang village and i could see through peephole peole run for cover when machine gun burst out aimlessly…houses were burnt to ash when a bomb was drop,the villares fled to the jungle and i could see lot of casulty lay all around the village…this a fact scene i had witness during the air raid by the indian air force..

  • Lalthianghlima

    The name of the village Tuipang should be read as Sangau,i regret the error.

  • swapan

    This is the only and unfortunate incident in the world where a sovraign country bombarded its own teritory which needed aids to fight against famine nt bombs. This attack bt IAF was not at all required during that time coz’ the MNF struggle continues 20 years down the line before final settlment.