Six IAF personnel allegedly abandoned local radio operator during anti-Naxal strike

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne on Thursday sought to clarify the events behind “divisive reports” on the January 18 incident in the Chhattisgarh’s naxalite-hit Sukma district. The incident allegedly caused a rift between local IAF personnel and police.

The Air Chief said that in such critical and sensitive operations, all those involved should work as a team and “pull in the same direction instead of finding faults in one incident”.

Seeking to explain what happened during the Home-Ministry-mandated anti-Naxalite strikes, Air Chief Marshal Browne insisted that reports suggesting that 6 IAF personnel abandoned a police radio operator and fled the scene, leaving weapons behind, were wrong.

At a news conference at Aero India 2013 at the Yelahanka airbase here, the Air Chief said he was surprised that a letter written by Home Secretary R.K. Singh to Defence Secretary Sashi Kant Sharma on the incident was leaked to the media the very next day — on Tuesday.

“This is not the way to function in a situation like this. [As is happening in the Valley,] they [the Maoists] want to create divisions between the security forces and agencies. If we are not careful in the Maoist region, and keep sniping like this, exactly the same thing will happen. As the Defence Minister had said, a big mountain is being made of a molehill,” he said.

Not an easy task

As for the IAF continuing its task, he said conducting anti-Naxal operations on a request from the Home Ministry was not an easy task. The six IAF crew-members had returned to their roles in the same area.

“We discuss here in hindsight in cool air-conditioned comfort as to what could or could have been done.”