'Josh Machine' Col Viplav Tripathi's death an irreparable loss for Assam Rifles, killing of family adds to shock
An army officer who had been working closely with Colonel Tripathi recalled him as a 'josh machine', who was capable of performing extremely well under stress, a thorough gentleman and a professional
Fine officer, "josh machine", thorough gentleman, never angry. These impressions will forever be etched in the memory of those who worked with Colonel Viplav Tripathi and even those like me who met him briefly.
I met Colonel Tripathi during an assignment in Mizoram earlier this year. Commanding Officer of the 46 Assam Rifles, he was always smiling and ever helpful, getting us everything we needed to do our story. Whether it was data on illegal smuggling along Mizoram-Myanmar border or the training manual for women personnel of the Assam Rifles, Colonel Tripathi had all the information on his fingertips, and relayed it effortlessly.
The Colonel's death in a militant ambush in Manipur's Sehkan village comes as a huge blow to both the Assam Rifles and the Indian Army. The attack, suspected to have been carried out by militants from the separatist group People's Liberation Army or the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), also claimed the lives of his wife and six-year-old son along with four soldiers.
Colonel Tripathi was returning from a forward company base to his battalion headquarters with a Quick Response Team (QRT) when the convoy was ambushed by IEDs. Sehkan is a village in Manipur, right at the Mizoram border in Behiang area and is around 65km from district headquarters of Churachandpur.
An Army officer who had been working closely with Colonel Tripathi recalled him as a "josh machine", who was capable of performing extremely well under stress, a thorough gentleman and a professional.
"Being the garrison battalion CO, he always displayed positivity throughout and had our complete faith. He was highly dependable and a task given to him could be forgotten because we knew he will handle it," the officer said.
"I don't remember seeing him angry ever. He had an ever-smiling face and was an exemplary personality. He was a good soldier, husband and father. His death has put an irreparable dent in the organisation," the officer added.
Another senior Army officer serving in Assam Rifles who also worked with the Colonel said the highly capable officer was always cheerful and never under stress even in the most difficult of situations. "Being the garrison battalion commander, he was always by my side. My faith in him was unwavering and he never let me down," he said.
The Colonel's WhatsApp status, perhaps, best captured his spirit – 'Life Will Be Lived Henceforth'.
'Was at the forefront of anti-smuggling ops'
Colonel Viplav Tripathi had been serving in Mizoram till July this year before he moved to Khuga in Manipur's Churachandpur district. As per an official statement, during his tenure in Mizoram, the battalion he led was at the forefront in border management, thwarting illegal smuggling along the Indo-Myanmar Border and the hinterland.
"In this period, his battalion had also recovered several weapons and war-like stores which could have landed in the hands of anti-national elements, thus avoiding major casualties," the statement highlighted.
"Col Viplav through his remarkable endeavors had bonded closely with the locals of Mizoram. The anti-drug campaign conducted by his battalion in January 2021 received several laurels and praise," the statement said, adding that the officer played a crucial role in creating awareness across the entire state, including the remote villages of Mizoram to guide the youth in the right direction.
It added that the death of the energetic and proactive officer has left the troops of Assam Rifles in grief. "His absence will be felt closely and his goodwill for the society will last an eternity and will be felt by the organisation and in each and every person of Aizawl and Khuga," it said.
'Families re never targeted'
The incident has left the defence establishment shocked, particularly because this area at the Manipur-Mizoram border has seen relative peace in the last four years, and also because it is a rare instance where the family of an officer was targeted by a Manipur-based insurgent group.
"This is new. Families are never targeted," a senior Army officer said.
While the Colonel, his family and four soldiers died on the spot, four injured personnel were admitted at the Behianga healthcare center. As per sources, an operation was underway on Saturday to track the militants and additional troops had been rushed to the location.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, Assam Rifles sources say the militant group PREPAK is suspected to be behind it, since the outfit marks 12-13 November as 'remembrance day'.
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