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8 Mountain Division

8 Mountain Division was raised in 1963 to combat insurgency in Nagaland. The Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School was established at Vairangte, Mizoram to impart pre-induction training to all the incoming units. Towards the end of the 1960s, 8 Mountain Division had well over thirty battalions under command, including those of the Assam Rifles and the other Central Police Organisations. They had notched up a series of spectacular successes as some of the gang leaders - self styled 'Generals' - and their gangs were intercepted. Thinning out of the troops for the 1971 operations gave a breathers to the insurgents once again.

North-east India has been beset with insurgencies for more than 50 years. The Nagas rebelled in the early fifties and since then insurgency in some form or the other has spread to all the states of the North-east - popularly known as the Seven Sisters. Over the years, the insurgencies have developed external linkages, which have only complicated matters.

For centuries, western and central India witnessed the thunderous march of many armies. Some were led by plunderers who returned with the loot, and some by more ambitious warlords who stayed back to establish their dynastic rule. All through this, the northeastern region had remained by and large unaffected. Emperors in Delhi rarely set their eyes beyond the Gangetic plains and even the rulers in Patliptura did not find reasons enough to venture far into the east. Similarly, it was only their commercial interests in tea and oil that led the British into Assam. They too let the myriad tribal societies in the east continue with their old ways. In the wake of the Japanese invasion, some arterial road infrastructural facilities were created to sustain campaigning in Burma. By and large, however, the region remained undeveloped.

Ever since Independence, the people of the northeastern states have been restive. This is because these states, though they are rich in natural resources, have experienced little industrial or economic growth. Unemployment has caused frustration amongst the youth. Demographic changes threatened continuation of the special ethnic identity of these people as also their culture and traditions. To crown it all, this jungle covered mountainous terrain having porous borders with many neighbouring countries, provides an ideal setting for the growth of insurgency. Not surprising therefore, for the past over four decades the formations and the units of Eastern Command have remained heavily committed. Some facets of this gnawing threat from within, highlight the complexities of the Command's task in hand.

The mid term elections in the State of Manipur were held on the 19th, 23rd and 25th February, 1974 covering all the 60 constituencies. The State Civil and Armed Police Forces, the C.R.P.F., the B.S.F. and the Army carried sweeping combing operations and gave excellent example of devotion to duty and alertness by meticulous planning. There was a definite requirement for adequate and well integrated security arrangements for domination of vulnerable areas. The contribution made by the 8 Mountain Divn. and the 61 Mountain Brigade, in spite of their overwhelming commitments and limited resources, provided outer protection cordons in strategic areas of almost the entire State in addition to seeing through the elections within their own sector in an exemplary manner. The Joint Control Centre established at Imphal by the 61 Mountain Brigade in Co-ordination with the other Security forces provided the nerve-centre and an efficient system of collating and disseminating information.

Hardliners shunned the Shillong Accord of 1975 and the triumvirate of Swu, Khaplang and Muivah formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). It soon became the most powerful underground organisation in the northeast. Between 1980-86, over 300 security personnel are estimated to have lost their lives due to the NSCN 's militant activities. As a result, in February 1985, Headquarters 3 Corps was raised to ensure a more co-ordinated employment of all troops combating insurgency. Consequently, the formations of 3 Corps launched large-scale operations, in conjunction with units of the Myanmar Army, to gain the upper hand over the NSCN. By then, some cracks had begun to appear amongst the NSCN's top leadership and the ensuing inter-gang rivalry in 1988 left the organisation disjointed for a while. However, the pulling out of troops of 8 Mountain Division for employment in Jammu and Kashmir gave them time to regroup yet again.

In 1999, operations in the Drass sector were carried out by 8 Mountain Division in the full glare of the media. These were primarily frontal attacks on enemy positions. Though successful, they resulted in high casualties. However, away from the media spotlight, 70 Infantry Brigade was successfully able to carry out position warfare in the Batalik sector. This was militarily more significant.

Kargil Brigade, which is one of the oldest brigades of the Indian Army, celebrated 50 years of its raising in 2006. It has a unique distinction of being the only brigade which has fought all wars with Pakistan starting from 1947 to 1999. The harsh mountainous region of Kargil became lively and colourful for two days when Kargil Brigade celebrated its Golden Jubilee. The main programme commenced by paying homage to all the martyrs of this sector. Wreaths were laid by Lt General JK Mohanty, GOC 14 Corps and Major VS Tonk, GOC 8 Mountain Division. About one thousand troops, ex-Servicemen and widows attended the ceremony which was addressed by the Chief Guest. Ex-Servicemen and the war widows were also felicitated by the Chief Guest. Later, a First Day Cover and coffee table book were released by him. A barakhana was also organised for all attendees. The glittering ceremony came to a grand finale with a sterling display of martial and classical music played by the combined military orchestra of Indian Military Academy, JAT Regimental Centre and JAK LI Regimental Centre bands.

The first Bombay National History Society (BNHS) Green Governance Award for conservation of flora for 2008 was awarded to the Indian Army's 8 Mountain Division. The Division launched operation Green Kargil - a long-term plantation drive to increase the green cover in Dras, Kargil, Khumbathang and Batalik sectors. Ladakh, inspite of its unique flora and fauna, possesses a fragile eco-system. Despite the known challenges, in such arid cold desert conditions, a conscious effort was made by the Army in the form of operation Green Kargil. Under the operation a massive plantation drive was launched involving the local population in entire length and breadth of Kargil District. Around 34,000 trees, including medicinal plants and fruit trees, have been planted as part of the drive which aims to conserve the flora and fauna. In addition, as a long term vision of sustainable development, micro-hydel projects, wind mills and solar power systems have been installed in the area to provide the local residents with renewable sources of energy. The aim is to reduce their dependence on wood as a domestic fuel which is denuding the thin forest cover in the area. The Green Governance Award has been instituted by BNHS to provide impetus to sustainable development and encourage environmental protection. The award was presented by Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh to Maj Gen VK Ahluwalia, GOC 8 Mountain Division.



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