In 1997 I was a young Maj posted at Headquarters 5 Sector of Assam Rifles in Kohima, Nagaland in a high insurgency environment. I headed the operations and intelligence staff. This tenure brought me in contact with politicians as well as journalists. Nagaland is quite different from my home state, UP. Let me explain with an example: A minister used to visit my office in Kohima to request for some bottles of liquor (It is a dry state). In UP even a Police Constable can “manage” (not buy) plenty of liquor and maybe much more. I will narrate two interesting incidents of my interactions with a politician and journalists.
Opposition Leader Vamuzo
The Eastern Army Commander, Lt Gen R Eipe had visited Kohima. He was scheduled to meet CM Jamir at the latter’s residence and the leader of the opposition, Vamuzo in the Officers’ Mess of 5 Sector. The CM had invited the Gen and I had the responsibility to fix his appointment with Vamuzo. I spoke to Vamuzo and informed him of the time of his meeting with the Gen. He said, “Thank you, Major. Please remind me again one hour before the appointed time.” I told him, “Sir, I am sure that you have some staff or some mechanism to manage your appointments. I take care of these things for the Army. If the General orders me to remind you, then I will do it, but you should not be asking me to do any such thing. I am sure that you will be able to remember your appointment without my having to remind you.” He said, “It seems you have taken offence at my request. I will manage.” I replied, “Your assessment is correct. Good day to you, Sir!” Vamuzo did meet the Gen at the appointed time. I have no idea as to whether Vamuzo spoke to him about a sensitive Major.
Journalists Meeting PM Gujral
PM Gujral visited Kohima. The last part of his visit entailed his interaction with the journalists at a helipad located inside 29 Assam Rifles Battalion. Those days PMs used to talk to journalists routinely as it was considered an important aspect of democracy. Things have changed since 2014. For almost two years I had been reading the two prominent local newspapers thoroughly to grasp the pulse of the population. The local press, on such occasions, used to promote a grievance that they are not afforded an audience with the senior central leaders. Now they were getting an opportunity of promoting the idea of discrimination against the local press. Management of the security of the PM is a serious issue for the state administration as well as the Army. Security clearance passes were issued to the journalists to enter the Army campus. On such occasions the SP created a very good radio network and issued radios to all detachment commanders. I kept one radio set on the Police net to listen to the communication to remain in picture of things and resolve any unforeseen crisis. A crisis did arise. The local journalists started shouting and protesting at the entrance gate of 29 Assam Rifles that they were not being allowed to meet the PM. My office was 150 m away from the site of this protest. I ran to the spot and asked the protesters the cause of the protest (which I knew, as also the agenda). I enquired as to how many journalists wanted to meet the PM. There were barely 4-5 of them. I told them not to protest and that I was permitting them to go inside the campus and meet the PM. I also asked them to run quickly so as not to waste precious time. None of them went inside but the protests and shouting stopped. Their agenda got exposed. Next day the local papers published as to how the local journalists were not allowed to meet the PM. Often I was involved in drafting rejoinders to be published in the local news-papers when false allegations were made against the Army. This time we gave no rejoinder as the target was the Jamir government and Jamir had no time to bother about such trivial issues.
–BY COL M M NEHRU