Gunrunner charge sheeted by NIA appointed NSCN-IM military chief
A Naga extremist leader charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seven years ago for gunrunning, has been made the military chief of the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland that has been on ceasefire mode since July 1997.
The NSCN-IM had late Tuesday evening said ‘Lieutenant General’ Anthony Ningkhan Shimray has been made the ‘longvibu’ or commander-in-chief of the Naga army. The outfit’s vice-president Kholi announced this via an ‘order’.
Shimray, a 56-year-old Tangkhul Naga from Manipur’s Ukhrul district, replaces Phungthing Shimrang, who was formerly the convenor of the ceasefire monitoring cell. The NSCN-IM did not specify the removal of Shimrang, also a Tangkhul from Manipur.
The outfit’s general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah belongs to the same tribe too.
Expected to take charge within a week, Shimray has been the head of NSCN-IM’s foreign affairs. He was arrested in Nepal’s Kathmandu in September 2010 allegedly for negotiating an arms deal with a Chinese company, and lodged in New Delhi’s Tihar jail on charges of gunrunning and trying to wage war against India.
On 4 August 2016, a special court of NIA released Shimray on bail in interest of the peace negotiation between the Indian government and the NSCN-IM and six other Naga extremist groups. RN Ravi, the Centre’s interlocutor in the Naga peace talks, played a key role in securing bail for Shimray.
A spokesperson of NSCN-IM said Shimray is an easy-going person, is a post-graduate and has the kind of communication skills that helped the outfit garner global support during the days of conflict with New Delhi. Shimray’s military exploits include commanding the Naga rebels in their hideout in Bangladesh three decades ago.
The NSCN-IM which is active in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, is believed to have cadre strength of more than 5,000. It signed a Framework Agreement with the Narendra Modi government in 2015, but the contents of this peace deal have not been revealed yet.