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Journey to Kohima

Book Excerpt

Right from the year 1960, the Indian Airforce in Eastern India, particularly in the North East, had been busy helping the Indian Army, the Assam Rifles and the Police Action in Naga Hills — by either dropping food to inaccessible areas or transporting the troops. The Naga undergrounds also were very active from 1968-69. Some Airforce Aircrafts like Dakota and others were grounded in the jungle of Nagaland because the undergrounds would shoot the aircrafts while they were dropping food grains from a very low height. Some of our Airmen were taken by them and released after many months. Prior to Chinese aggression in 1962, the armed forces were busy in the North East fighting the Naga underground. In 1961, the Airforce started opening the Signal Unit at Kohima just to link messages with the military unit in Naga Hill areas with various Army and Airforce Stations. One Nepali airman and I went to Kohima in 1961 by a private vehicle which used to travel in a convoy with military vehicles; it was a thick and active operation. The Naga underground army set up checkpoints, in every 2 or 3 kms. So also the Army, too set up check gates in every 3 or 4 kms. Therefore, travelling convoys would line up at every check point. As a result, even when we started from Dimapur at around 5.30 or 6 AM, we reached Kohima by about 5 PM. It took us between 11 to 12 hours journey from Dimapur to Kohima, a distance of only about 100 kms. Kohima at that time was a small town having sparse houses, with only one small market and this market opened only in the morning and noon and not in the afternoon or evening. The town was full of the remnants of the Second World War (1939-45). Big tanks stuck up in various hillocks particularly above the international cemetery of Kohima. But whoever reach Kohima, will not forget the words inscribed in the gate of the International Cemetery which read “When you go home, tell them of us, we gave our today for your tomorrow”. The purpose of our visit was to see if the place selected for a signal unit of the Airforce would be safe in that area. Since it was in the heart of the town, we felt that it would be safe.

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While in the Airforce at Jorhat, I used to play football, and we used to play in many localities along with local teams. I was selected along with two colleagues from our Airforce to represent a District Team, one Mr K.N. Singh from Manipur and one Baharoli from Sibsagar itself. But those days, particularly when we played in rural areas, everybody played rough games so we also were rough. I also represented Eastern Air Command Team and hence we used to practice at No.6 Wing Airforce Station Barakpore, Calcutta. A State team from Shillong used to visit Jorhat occasionally. So also the team from Punjab and Calcutta, took part in a tournament called ATPA (Assam Tea Planters Association) football Tournament, where teams from Punjab, West Bengal and Assam used to take part along with the Assam Regimental Centre (ARC), Assam Rifles and also the Assam Police. In 1963-64, I practiced and took part in Boxing. We were sent for an inter-command at Bangalore, but in my fly-weight category, I ended up only in the runners up as I was beaten by one Salvi of the Training Command. It happened once when we played against a local team near our Airforce station Barackpore, that I (as we used to play in those areas of ours) raised my foot up as if to stamp on others that the spectators got annoyed at me. They started throwing turfs and debris at me. I was very much ashamed of my habits and behaviour.

(Excerpted from the book My Journey by Rowell Lyngdoh)

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