NSCN-K split may pave way for Naga peace talks: Militant group says it is 'willing to return to negotiations'
India has been trying to get the NSCN-K to the negotiating table like the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) faction as it is felt that peace won’t hold unless all the rebel groups agree to it.
Jolted by a recent split along ethnic and religious lines, the dreaded National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Khaplang) (NSCN-K)—which unilaterally walked out of a 14-year ceasefire with the government on 27 March, 2015—is willing to return to the negotiating table.
“Backed by more than 500 and still many more readying to join hands, the NSCN (also known by the abbreviation GPRN) led by Khango Konyak shall continue to defend the rights and identity of the Nagas, and we are also seriously considering the Naga people's genuine appeal for peace and political dialogue with government of India,” NSCN-K spokesperson Isak Sumi said in an emailed statement on Friday.
After decades of waging an incessant struggle against India, the Myanmar-headquartered outfit’s desire to come to the negotiating table may have been prompted by the latest split, whose impact will be felt for a long time, besides having a big bearing on the strategy and tactics of the various armed underground groups in the region.
Till last year, NSCN (K), United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and People's Liberation Army of Manipur (PLA)—the leading insurgent outfits from Assam and Manipur respectively—operating in close coordination had become a formidable force to reckon with, especially in the mountainous and heavily forested badlands of Myanmar bordering India.
About 60,000 square kilometres in size, the area is largely ungoverned with thousands of insurgents mounting a formidable challenge to the Myanmar Army on one side and the Indian Army on the other. Besides, these insurgents are involved in trading of sophisticated weapons and mining of jade, according to reports.
While the NSCN-K—the ‘big daddy’ of these groups mainly due to the predominance of Naga villages in the area—split along tribal lines with Myanmar Naga tribes staunchly opposing Khango Konyak, an Indian Naga who assumed the leadership of the outfit after the death of SS Khaplang, what is of utmost significance is the sudden souring of relations between the ULFA and PLA.
Accusing the Pangmi sect, a Naga tribe from Myanmar led by Yung Aung (aka Yonghong), of trying to assassinate Konyak, Sumi said, “The Pangmi sect connived with the Myanmar Army and mounted a full-scale military operation to assassinate his excellency Khango Konyak. The offensive is still continuing to hunt down NSCN/GPRN workers guided by the Pangmi renegades.” Alleging that “the ringleaders of the splinter Pangmi sect will be endowed with huge monetary bonus and other lucrative offers in the form of gold and jade mining licences and permanent citizenship privileges anywhere in Myanmar”, the NSCN-K spokesperson added, “They will also be entitled to contest in Myanmar Union elections by renouncing the Nagas historical sovereign rights.”
Questioning the impeachment process of Konyak, Sumi questioned the validity of the process. “Whereas the renegades at the instigation of Meitei UG groups and ULFA without acquiring even a quarter of the quorum arbitrarily imposed the impeachment, which is unconstitutional, illegal and invalid and therefore stands nullified… not a single NSCN leader from India-occupied Nagaland were consulted or involved in this illegal process.” With NSCN-K’s Myanmar Nagas siding with ULFA and PLA, Konyak stands effectively isolated, which will have huge implications for the capability and logistics for these groups to operate inside Indian and also on the ongoing peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction.
Sumi also questioned Aung’s religious mooring: “…the usurper Yonghong, who is a non-Christian and a devout Hindu and Buddhist… is a Meitei (a largely Hindu Manipuri community) by culture and mindset. Yonghong is just a mere puppet of Meiteis and can never represent the Naga interests in any platform”. India has been trying to bring the NSCN-K to the negotiating table—like the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) faction—as it is felt that peace won’t hold unless all the rebel groups agree to it.
On 9 June, 2015, the army attacked two NSCN-K camps across Manipur and Nagaland along the India-yanmar border and claimed significant successes in terms of destroying insurgent bases and elimination of insurgents.
The Nagaland Police had charge sheeted at least 30 members of the 21 Para Special Force in the case. The charge sheet has slapped charges of murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder on the team of soldiers
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