Retired Inspector General of Police MP Nathanael’s experiences as an officer in the Central Reserve Police Force are rare. He has faced bullets, been awarded medals for gallantry, courage and meritorious service, and in his own words, has had a life well-lived.
It was September 1972. Muthu Paul Nathanael from Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, joined the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as a deputy superintendent of police (Dy SP). After a year and a half of training at Neemuch in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Kishengarh in Rajasthan, the young officer was posted to Tamenglong, in Manipur. He was barely 21 years old then.
Today, Nathanael is a 69-year-old retired Inspector General of Police, settled in NOIDA near New Delhi. He looks back with satisfaction on a life well served with the CRPF that gave him opportunities, experiences and honour that few can aspire to.
The highlight of his distinguished career with the CRPF, he said, came right at the very beginning, with his very first posting at Tamenlong, during the height of Naga insurgency.
Two years into his tenure there, when he was 27 years old, on the night of November 10, 1974, he was tipped off about the presence of Naga insurgents in the old Tamenglong village.
“I was in my room. It was ten at night and we had been told by the headquarters to be prepared to flush out the insurgents at the old Tamenglong village,” he recalled.
At 2 am, Nathanael set off with his platoon of 20 men in pitch darkness as electric supply was turned off at 10 pm.
“We had to walk to the village as vehicles would give us away. Not just that we had to move with utmost stealth, careful not to step on leaves as any sound could set the dogs barking…” he narrated.
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As Nathanael tells it, they had to wait in the vicinity of the village as they had orders not to move in till day break. “We were in a depression, the village was on a hillock. As dawn broke, we climbed up. A stone wall surrounded the villages and I caught a flash of green in one of the houses,” he said.
The Naga insurgents wore green uniforms and were also organised in battalions. Before they knew it the insurgents opened fire and Nathanael and his men retaliated too.
“I cocked my nine mm Browning pistol and shot back. There was a burst of firing and to my surprise I found myself fallen down. I felt no pain, but I realised I had been shot in both my legs,” Nathanael continued. The young officer was not aware of it then, but one bullet had lodged in his left ankle and the other on his right thigh. “I fired back and got one Naga on his leg, then rolled over behind a boulder.”
There, he continued firing and helping another CRPF personnel load and fire a two-inch mortar towards the building where the insurgents were holded up. “They had automatic weapons. We still used bolt action ones,” laughed Nathanael.
A fellow CRPF personnel, displaying immense courage, moved Nathanael away to safety after which he was evacuated to civil district hospital at Tamenglong. “But, we captured four militants and killed one,” Nathanael recalled with quiet pride. In the mop up operations, a lot of important documents were recovered along with a huge haul of ammunition.
Fact is stranger than fiction, and to his surprise, Nathanael found that on a hospital cot next to him lay a Naga insurgent captured in the very operation. “He was the commanding officer of the First Naga Battalion,” Nathanael said.
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In 1975, Dy SP Nathanael was awarded the Parakram Padak or the Wound Medal (awarded to those who sustain wounds as a result of direct enemy action in any type of operations or counter-insurgency actions), that he proudly bore on his chest till he retired. The other distinguished awards he won were President’s Police Medal for Gallantry in 1975, the Police Medal for Meritorious Service in 2000 and the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2009.
The officer went on to serve the nation in different parts of the country, in difficult times and difficult environments. He served in the North East of India, in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) districts, Jammu & Kashmir, and in Punjab. He also served as the Public Relations Officer of the CRPF. At the time of retirement he was Inspector General of Police/Training at the CRPF Headquarters in Delhi.
Listen to the inspirational stories of the valour of CPRF come alive on The Slow App, in the voices of Neelesh Misra and artistes trained by him. The CRPF stories are brought to you as a part of an MoU between the Slow Content Pvt. Ltd, which has developed The Slow App, and the CRPF.