New Delhi: Forty-one-year-old Colonel Viplav Tripathy, his wife Anuja Shukla (37) and their five-year-old son, Abir, along with four Indian Army jawans, lost their lives in an explosion carried out by suspected Naga terrorists near Manipur’s Sekhen village, Singhat sub-division, Churachandpur district, about 70 km from state capital Imphal.

The Army convoy carrying the commanding officer, his family members and his men of 46 Assam Rifles, were returning after visiting a forward base area at the nearby Myanmar border when the explosion caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) took place. There are reports that soon after the blast, the terrorists fired upon the convoy to inflict further damage on the personnel.

It is not yet clear why the family members of the commanding officer were a part of the Army team that had visited the forward area, which is located inside a remote forest.

Tripathy had been posted in Manipur in mid-2020 after being transferred from Meerut cantonment.  His father, Subhash is a senior journalist based in Raigarh, Chhattisgarh and had returned to Raigarh last week after staying in Imphal with his son for three months.

Viplav Tripathy’s grandfather, Kishori Mohan Tripathy was a member of the Constitution draft committee and a nominated  Member of Parliament. He is credited with ensuring the inclusion of the Panchayati Raj system in the Constitution.

Viplav’s younger brother, Anay is a Lieutenant Colonel in Assam Rifles. The 1980-born Viplav, who graduated from Sainik School, Rewa, joined the armed forces in 2001.

The Indian Army had been fighting the Naga terrorists in the region for a long time now. In June 2015, 72 Special Forces commandos had carried out a 40-minute cross-border operation against the members of two terror groups National Socialist Council of Nagaland NSCN(K) and KYKL (Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup) by crossing into Myanmar and killing at least 35 terrorists by targeting two camps used by these groups.

The action was done to avenge the deaths of 18 Indian soldiers who were killed by terrorists on 4 June in Chandel, Manipur. The attack was claimed by the United Liberation Front, one of the several terror groups active in the region.

The Union Government, for the last several decades, has been carrying out peace talks in Nagaland with  National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), the most prominent Naga group, and Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), an umbrella group representing seven outfits. A breakthrough was reached in 2015 when a framework agreement was signed with NSCN(IM) and another agreement with NNPG in 2017. But no final arrangement has been reached till now.

Officials say that these terrorist groups, including People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak Progressive (PREPAK-Pro), a group that is suspected to have been involved in today’s incident, have been getting arms and financial support from independent entities who are being supported by the Chinese intelligence agency, Ministry of State Security.

The recent attack on Tripathy and his family members is likely to lead to a similar response against the terror groups from the government on the lines of June 2015. This is the first time that family members of Army personnel have been targeted by the terrorists.