After much looking, we find one person, a 70-year-old who had previously served in the Assam Rifles and now spends his days farming. "Everyone left this morning for Chandel," said Mr KC.
10 kilometres ahead, we encounter Army jawans, standing at a bend and flagging down any vehicle coming their way. We tell them we are journalists. They then stop asking us to turn around and leave immediately, but tell us we can't go on a few steps ahead. The reason they say, is a still unexploded Improvised Explosive Device planted by insurgents on the road, discovered this morning, cordoned off and still awaiting a bomb squad. Beyond the IED, the charred remains of two totally burnt trucks stand on the road.
A jawan points to the miles and miles of jungle around, and says "It's so easy for these insurgents to melt away from here into Myanmar. You see these jungles, walk 20 hours and you can reach Burma too."
On our way back from the spot, we chance upon a combing operation at another village nearby. The company commander leading the operation is anxious to have us leave. We comply, but not before catching glimpses of some young children and women coming out of their homes on the order of the troops. The men, they are nowhere to be found even at this village.
A few kilometers ahead, we catch up with an Assam Rifles road opening party. The young officer in charge says he won't face the cameras, but adds that it seems the next few days will be very, very rough, and even more challenging than operating in Manipur usually is.
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