A Toofani fighter aircraft, which had bombed Aizawl on March 4 and 5, 1966, is on display as a trophy of valour and pride at the Kumbhirgram airbase in Silchar.
On the afternoon of March 4, 1966, IAF’s fighters had attacked Mizo National Front’s targets in Aizawl using machine guns. The next day, a more extensive airstrike was carried out for about five hours.
According to the Mizos, the IAF fighters had bombed Aizawl’s Dawrpui and Chhinga Veng areas. In addition to Aizawl, the neighbouring villages of Tualbung and Hnahlan were also bombarded.
The Toofani fighter jets of the 29 Squadron in Kumbhirgram and Hunter aircrafts of 17 Squadron from Jorhat were engaged for the airstrike to suppress the Mizo insurgents.
The airstrike by the IAF fighter jets was in retaliation to the attack on government establishments by the Mizo National Front (MNF) insurgents.
The MNF guerrillas on March 1 had launched a series of simultaneous attacks on the posts of security forces, treasuries and looted money, arms and ammunition.
Laldenga, the supreme commander of the MNF had declared independence, and had exhorted all the Mizos to join the revolt against the “illegal Indian occupation” of the Mizo territory.
And after 53 years of the infamous airstrike in Aizawl, Dipalay Dey, a New Delhi-based aviation geek, has traced one of the Toofani fighter aircrafts which had bombed Aizawl.
The Toofani was actually a Dassault MD450 Ouragan fighter jet, a French fighter-bomber, produced by the Dassault Aviation. The Indian Air Force had named it Toofani (meaning Hurricane).
Dipalay Dey, an engineer by qualification, travels across India to find and locate vintage defence war-birds and civil aircrafts.
He found the Toofani fighter aircraft at the Kumbhirgram airbase in Silchar, and photographed it.
The Toofani aircraft features a fake tail number IC-222, and is in a nose up display at the end of Runway 24 at a traffic roundabout.
The aircraft was also missing its nose undercarriage and the original cockpit canopy.
The airfield was built by the British in 1944. The IAF established its presence in 1966, when No. 403 Air Force Station was formed at Kumbhirgram.
It also hosts the Silchar civil airport. In 1989, the Kumbhirgram airbase was upgraded to 22 Wing, AF.
While the MNF guerrillas have now come over ground, and Zoramthanga is the chief minister of Mizoram, the Mizos still recall the incident of airstrike in March 1966 with fright and fury.
It was first and the last incident of airstrike by the Indian Air Force within its own territory, and that too, on its own people.
Though there is no official confirmation, the tribal Mizos claim many innocent civilians had also lost their lives during the airstrike in Aizawl and the nearby villages.
They also allege that several houses were also destroyed in the Dawrpui and Chhinga Veng areas in the airstrike.
However, the administration always claimed that the houses were destroyed in the fires ignited by the prisoners released from the Aizawl jail by the insurgents.
But, people in Mizoram are definitely not going to be happy with the IAF’s nose up display of the Toofani fighter jet at the end of Runway 24 at Kumbhirgram airbase.