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Finding Nellie's smoking gun

How a policeman's wireless message that could have saved 3,000 lives, but was ignored and covered up, was uncovered

Shekhar Gupta
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Just about three months after the Nellie tragedy, exactly 40 years ago on February 18, 1983, evidence emerged that an officer of the Assam Police had indeed sent out a specific, written warning that armed mobs of Lalung tribals were gathering around Muslim villages.
The message — later published on the cover of the India Today issue dated May 15, 1983 — read in all capitals (often the language of police wireless): “INFORMATION RECEIVED THAT L/NIGHT ABOUT ONE THOUSAND ASSAMESE OF SURROUNDING VILLAGES OF NELLIE WITH DEADLY WEAPONS ASSEMBLED AT NELLIE BY BEATING OF DRUMS (.) MINORITY PEOPLES ARE IN PANIC AND APPREHENDING ATTACK ANY MOMENT(.)SUBMISSION FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION TO MAINTAIN PEACE (.)”
The message was dated February 15, 1983. A neat three days before the killings. The warning that could have saved 3,000 lives had been fully ignored at so many places. There wasn’t even an acknowledgement to him. It was wr
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First Published: Feb 18 2023 | 9:30 AM IST

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