NEW DELHI: A month after the Pathankot operation, Director-General, National Security Guard, R.C. Tayal, speaks to Vijaita Singh about Lt. Col. Niranjan’s death and the synergy among varied forces on the ground. He says the NSG was best suited for the operation and there were no coordination issues among the forces. Excerpts:
R.C. Tayal rubbished rumours that Lt. Col. Niranjan died while clicking a selfie
Could you clear the air on Lt. Col. Niranjan’s death during the Pathankot operation?
By the time we killed the four terrorists, who were hiding in the elephant grass, it was late evening. We decided not to touch the bodies as it was dark. Next day, Lt. Col. Niranjan, the head of the bomb disposal squad, was tasked with retrieving the bodies. He led from the front and successfully pulled out three bodies. When he pulled the last body with a hook and line set, nothing suspicious was found. It was when he tried to pull out a grenade, kept in a pouch in the front jacket of the terrorist that a “click” sound came. The NSG commando standing behind him shouted: sahib phenko (Sir, throw it). It was too late by then, the grenade burst in the right hand. The impact was such that his arm was severed and lungs got punctured. He died instantly. Four others received injuries, one of them has lost an eye.
Was it avoidable?
He was the best officer we had, 15 years he did this only — defused bombs. He even went to the U.S. for training. He followed the standard operating procedure. To honour his courage, we have recommended his name for Kirti Chakra (peacetime gallantry award). Hope he gets it this August 15. I heard rumours that he died while clicking a selfie, it is all baseless.
Who took the operational decisions on the ground? There were reports of lack of coordination between Air Force, Army, NSG and Punjab Police?
There was absolute synergy. The work was clearly demarcated. The NSG was inside, the Army was asked to comb open areas, the Punjab Police were deployed at outer cordon and the Air Force was asked to do aerial surveillance. When we asked for Caspers (mine-resistant vehicles), the Army provided them in an hour. When we wanted tear gas shells, the Punjab Police got them in minutes. As soon as we reached the airbase, Hardeep Singh, ADG, Punjab Police, shared the intelligence with us that the terrorists were inside.
Who briefed Home Minister Rajnath Singh, which prompted him to tweet that the operation was over on January 2?
I have no idea about this.
Why did the operation take so long?
NSG operations cannot be measured in time. Many families were also staying at the airbase, there could have been a hostage crisis. The Army is suited for open/jungle areas, the NSG is for built-up areas where there are many people. Whoever saying there were coordination issues, is saying so because of his ego. And, 50 per cent of the NSG is the Army only. We recruit only the best from Central armed police forces and the Army.