People in Nagaland are guarded in their reaction to Monday’s peace accord between the Centre and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), wary that other militant groups —primarily the hostile NSCN (Khaplang) — may undermine the initiative.
Sympathisers in Nagaland accuse New Delhi of specifically targeting NSCN (K) to draw a line between “foreign” Nagas and Indian Nagas since most members of the outfit, including its chairman SS Khaplang, are Myanmar natives.
Members of the NSCN (I-M) — including its ailing chairman Isak Chishi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah — and other groups are from the Indian side of the border. Security forces are wary of the “nuisance value” of NSCN (K), which has since April ambushed and killed more than 30 soldiers.
Some of these attacks were carried out with help from the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and Manipur-based rebel groups. Manipur’s predominantly Meitei groups are more comfortable with NSCN (K) than NSCN (I-M), which had been more vocal about Nagalim or Greater Nagaland that includes five hill districts of Manipur.
But Nagaland-based groups consider the NSCN (I-M), mostly comprising Nagas of Manipur as “outsider”, and they are sceptical of any agreement with it.
“New Delhi says the
is for peace and development, but all that the Nagas have fought for since the 1950s is integration and sovereignty. If the scope of this accord is within Nagaland, where do most of the I-M leaders stand?” asked Alezo Venuh, a leader of the NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) group.
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The Naga National Council (NNC), the oldest group that fired the insurgency in the 1950s, doesn’t consider NSCN (I-M) as the true representative of Nagas. “When Isak and Muivah left NNC (after the 1975 Shillong Accord), they discarded the mandate of the Naga people and, hence, have no right to represent Nagaland and its people,” an NNC leader wrote in April 2014.
Security analysts are optimistic, though. “As the largest group, NSCN (I-M) has always been a factor in tackling insurgency. The security forces will have to be on high alert for trouble from across Myanmar. But the peace deal will help strengthen intelligence gathering against foreign forces. If NSCN (K) is countered, other groups can be choked,” said GM Srivastava, former Assam police chief.