In Khaplang’s death, Delhi sees opportunity to wean away Indian Nagas

Delhi is hoping that following the death of Naga rebel leader SS Khaplang, Indian Nagas of the NSCN(K) group may give up insurgency and return to normal life.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2017 19:53 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
SS Khaplang,NSCN (K),Naga rebel leader
Delhi believes that without SS Khaplang the NSCN (K) will face a lot of difficulties which may prompt its Indian Naga cadres to return to the mainstream.(HT PHOTO)

Delhi sees in Naga rebel leader Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang’s death an opportunity for Indians in his banned outfit to return to the mainstream.

The 77-year-old Khaplang, chairman of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), died Friday evening at the outfit’s base in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division.

“Khaplang was the heart and soul of NSCN-K, which will face a lot of difficulties without him. The NSCN-K has members from both India and Myanmar. The Myanmar nationals are not our concern, but we will appeal to the Indian NSCN-K rebels to return to the mainstream,” Union minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju said here on Saturday.

The minister said if the Indian Naga rebels of NSCN-K give up arms and abjure violence, they will be rehabilitated.

“The NSCN-K is a banned illegal Myanmar-based organisation. The outfit abrogated the ceasefire unilaterally in 2015. Nagaland, eastern Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur faced a lot of problems, as did Assam because of its activities,” Rijiju said.

The ‘banned’ tag on NSCN-K, however, did not prevent Nagaland chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu from mourning Khaplang’s death “on behalf of the government and people of Nagaland”.

Read more: NSCN(K) leader SS Khaplang dies in Myanmar

In a condolence message on Saturday, Shurhozelie said: “It is tragic that such an important Naga leader like Mr Khaplang has expired, considering the fact that the protracted Naga political problem is on the verge of being resolved, and the need for all different Naga political groups to come together to air our views and aspirations to the Government of India in one voice is absolutely imperative.”

He said the Nagaland government made several efforts to convince NSCN-K to re-enter the peace process with the Centre to find an early solution to the political problem.

“…It was encouraging to learn that Mr Khaplang had, a few months back, conveyed his willingness to have dialogues with the government provided the ‘issues of substance’ were discussed. However, before things could be taken forward to its logical conclusion, it is calamitous that the Naga leader could not live long enough to see the proverbial Promised Land,” Shurhozelie said.

Leaders of other Northeast rebel groups such as United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland also mourned Khaplang’s death. These groups are dependent on the shelter and guerrilla training that NSCN-K provides in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, reports from Myanmar said NSCN-K vice chairman Khango Konyak would take over as the outfit’s chairman but there is no consensus among constituent rebel groups on who will lead the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW).

Khaplang was the chairman of UNLFW, a conglomerate of at least six insurgent groups of the Northeast that carried out most attacks on the Indian armed forces after NSCN-K walked out on a 14-year-old ceasefire on March 27, 2015.

Paresh Baruah, the military chief of ULFA-I is a frontrunner for the post but NSCN-K is likely to have one of its own in charge.

First Published: Jun 10, 2017 19:18 IST