NSCN-K rebels fooled Indian watchers by trickling out in ones and twos from camps with their weapons, in violation of ceasefire rules, before calling off their 14-year-old truce with the government and carrying out last month’s deadly ambush which killed 18 Indian soldiers.
This and other warnings that NSCN-K leader SS Khaplang could be planning to return to guerrilla war were shared by rival Naga group, NSCN-IM, but Indian intelligence agencies ignored them, official sources said.
Inputs from locals in Nagaland suggest Khaplang and his associates had meticulously planned the evacuation of all cadres of his outfit from two ceasefire designated camps in Nagaland. Each camp had around 40 cadres.
The NSCN-K had four other peace camps but these were taken over by two breakaway factions. Rivals NSCN-IM, on the other hand, has six such camps in Nagaland including peace headquarters Hebron near Dimapur town besides a few in Manipur.
For weeks before the NSCN-K junked the ceasefire with the government, the cadres slipped out of their designated camps. In between trips designed as errands to outwit their watchers, they took their arsenal out till the last man left the camps.
The hilly, jungle terrain and the fact that the camps were located away from populated areas helped the cadres melt away into Myanmar.
But retired Lt-General NK Singh, who headed the Ceasefire Monitoring Group (CFMG) that oversaw the designated camps, rejected suggestions that the NSCN-K had violated the ceasefire ground rules, saying it was rather a breach of trust.
“You need a certain degree of trust to carry the peace process forward,” Singh told HT from Rajasthan.
“One must understand they were not detention or concentration camps. The armed forces kept their end of the agreement by not venturing within 1 km of the camps, as warranted by the ground rules.”