The government has authorised 16 members of two influential Naga civil groups to travel to Myanmar possibly this month and persuade rebel leader SS Khaplang to resume a ceasefire with New Delhi, in a bid to bring lasting peace to the trouble-torn Northeast.
The move assumes significance after rival outfits pointed out that the NSCN-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) group, with which the NDA government signed a framework peace accord on August 3, was not the only representative of the “aspirations” of the Nagas and other stakeholders could not be kept out of any solution envisaged.
“The MHA gave the security clearance on Friday. The team is trying to contact Khaplang now so that he can be met either in his bases in Myanmar or any nearby town like Lahe or wherever he wants,” Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang told HT on Sunday.
The SS Khaplang-led NSCN-K junked a 14-year-old ceasefire with New Delhi in March and has since killed at least 20 Indian soldiers in ambushes, some of them carried out with associate groups fighting for sovereignty in Assam and Manipur.
The two civil groups, Naga Hoho (traditional apex bodies of all Naga tribes) and Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) representing tribes inhabiting the eastern half of Nagaland, volunteered for the Myanmar trip following an appeal from the state parliamentary working committee of the joint legislator’s forum a few days ago.
“A team led by the heads of both Naga Hoho and ENPO would be travelling to Myanmar for this peace initiative possibly by the end of this month,” ENPO president S Khoiwang said.
Khaplang, though, is unlikely to meet the team. He is learnt to have assigned NSCN-K vice-chairman Khango Konyak and military supervisor Niki Sumi to talk to the “emissaries of peace”.
“We have not decided on the dates or location of the meeting till now. We are waiting for further communication from Khaplang’s side,” said Chuba Ozukum, president of Naga Hoho.
Khaplang’s inability to meet the team has been attributed to his health. “We were told he is recuperating after undergoing treatment,” Khoiwang said.
The government move comes against the backdrop of the pact signed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Thuingaleng Muivah, general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) and a key leader who spearheaded the rebel movement in Nagaland.
The accord marked the resolution of peace talks between New Delhi and the NSCN-IM that began in 1997, though details of the agreement are yet to be made public.
“The Naga insurgency is six decades old with a key demand of rebel groups being an independent, ethnic Naga homeland uniting parts of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and areas of Myanmar, with which it shares a border.”
Read: Greater Nagaland demand is alive says top NSCN (I-M) leader