From November 2007:
Sometime life does imitate low forms of self-styled “art”.
Towards the later part of my first novel, Rainbow’s End, there is a scene where a small group of terrorists infiltrates the (unnamed) city with the mission of killing a particular man and of extorting money. One of the terrorist squad defects to the police almost immediately, with the result that the rest of the group goes from being the hunters to the hunted.
Two days ago, there was a firefight in the city where five terrorists of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), a terrorist group of whom I’ve written in the past, were killed. A squad of six had infiltrated into the city, tasked with extorting money and with killing two men – Julius Dorphang, erstwhile chairman of the outfit, who surrendered a few months ago; and HS Shylla, a politician who speaks sense sometimes, most often on controversial topics (an extremely rare thing for an Indian politician). He does make some godawful cockups, too, but it’s his sensible remarks (on uranium mining) which got him targeted this time.
In any case, this group of terrorists had infiltrated the city and had one month to carry out their mission. Then, three days ago, one of their number, one Anthony Mawthoh, told the rest of them he was going to buy cigarettes – but defected to the police instead. He told the police what he knew, and they (both regular police and plainclothes “special police” auxiliaries, many of them former HNLC themselves) were waiting when the remaining terrorists drove into their trap at about 7pm the night before last (the place is within easy walking distance of my clinic and almost bang opposite my old school) in a grey Maruti van. When the police tried to stop them they opened fire and injured one policeman and one special policeman. The police retaliated with the results you can see in the photo above, which I cut out of a newspaper and scanned (so it is unfortunately not as clear as it might be) and sharpened to the best of my ability. They’re interesting in a totally gruesome way.
Incidentally, and this may be of interest – two of the five dead terrorists were from the locality where I live. Apparently these guys weren’t smart enough to do what my protagonist Rollin did, to maintain security. This was the largest number of casualties ever suffered by the HNLC in one single operation. It was a crowded residential locality, yet not a single civilian got a scratch. Short and sweet on the part of the police, for once. No?
Now I admit I may have been a wee bit optimistic to have said, in my last post on these people, the HNLC is dead beyond recovery, to everyone except politicians. Now that all that remains is to write the group’s obituary … Before saying why, let me explain that India is riddled with “interest groups” such as fascist “student unions” comprising anyone but students. The local fascist “student union” calls itself the Khasi Students Union (KSU) and its own former president has admitted it helped set up the HNLC. One of its former bigshots was among the HNLC terrorists killed in the car.
Some years back the HNLC was doing pretty much as it pleased, and at the time the KSU was rather vocal in its support for the terrorists whenever the police killed one of them. I recall one time when a notorious smuggler got shot after trying to fight back when the police tried to arrest him. The KSU condemned, get this, the “murder of an innocent tribal criminal”. I’m not joking.
Now, again, morons who have never touched a gun are demanding to know why the police didn’t “shoot to wound” or arrest the terrorists (who were armed with an AK47, several shotguns, and hand grenades) instead of killing them. Some of them say none of the police were injured – but two of them were (maybe it’s the police’s fault for not losing some men to please the fascists). And I’m sure they’re going to try and raise the innocent tribal criminal defence – if they haven’t tried it already, that is. Since two of the bastards were from this district of town, and since there is at least one totally unscrupulous woman politician who fancies her chances at the next election, I’m sure she’s going to jump in and bay for police blood if only it looks like the line will work. It’s unlikely to.There are people here who long to return to the dark days of insurgency, but there are many, many more, who don’t.