The two-decade-long Mizo rebellion from 1966 to 1986 remains the only conflict in which the Indian government used war planes against its citizens. Few written records exist on the conflict in which the Mizo National Front (MNF) revolted against the government, trying to establish an independent country.

A new book by a former militant in the Mizo National Army (MNA), the armed wing of the MNF, recounts the air bombings and the government’s “grouping” policy, under which villages in what is now Mizoram state were burned and civilians relocated to guarded centres called Protected and Progressive Villages.

“Untold Atrocity” by C. Zama deals with incidents in which civilians suffered or were allegedly killed by security forces. The book also assumes significance today because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allowed security forces an almost free hand in arresting or shooting anyone during the insurgency, is still enforced in Jammu and Kashmir and some areas of India’s northeast.

Zama in this interview talks about the almost unlimited powers the army wielded during the insurgency, and why the Mizoram Accord, which is touted as the most successful peace treaty in India, has not been fully implemented.

Q: Tell us about your time as an insurgent?
A: In 1965, before the violence started, I volunteered as a MNA member while studying in high school … I was in Class VIII when the [armed] movement broke out, so I left home and school and we started living in the forest. We traded fire with Indian soldiers many times – in Mizoram and (East) Pakistan, which is present-day Bangladesh.