In an irony of sorts, Nagaland's top separatist leader Thuingaleng Muivah will visit the insurgency-hit state in early January with Indian security cover.
Muivah, the general secretary of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), is due to arrive in Camp Hebron, the outfit's headquarters near the state's commercial hub in Dimapur.
Muivah is currently in New Delhi at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hold peace talks. The rebel leader has been living in self-imposed exile since the last 39 years and shuttles between Amsterdam, Bangkok, Manila and other Southeast Asian cities.
"The Nagaland government is duty bound to provide adequate security to Muivah during his proposed visit to the state. We have received a communication from the home (federal) ministry to arrange for Z-plus category security," a senior intelligence official said.
The heightened security comes in the wake of a 'death threat' against Muivah by the rival NSCN faction led by SS Khaplang.
"It is really a shame to hear Muivah planning to visit Nagaland under Indian security cover. Muivah and his group are nothing but puppets of New Delhi," Kughalo Mulatonu, a senior leader of the NSCN-Khaplang, said.
The rival group had dubbed Muivah a "traitor" and threatened to "eliminate" him if he visits Nagaland. "We shall not allow Muivah to visit Nagaland and hundreds of our armed cadres would attack him if he tries to enter the state even for a day," Mulatonu said.
"Why should the Indian government offer security to a terrorist?"
The NSCN-IM is unperturbed by the threats. "These are threats only in paper and our leader is visiting Camp Hebron as scheduled. The dates are yet to be finalised," an NSCN-IM spokesperson said.
Both the NSCN factions are operating a ceasefire with New Delhi - the NSCN-IM is holding peace talks after the group entered into a truce in 1997. The NSCN-K is yet to begin formal talks with New Delhi although the group signed a ceasefire pact with the Indian government in 2001.
The two warring factions are engaged in a bitter fratricidal war with at least 200 cadres killed during the past five years.
The violent insurgency in Nagaland has claimed around 25,000 lives since the country's independence in 1947.