It has been a persistent endeavour of the Government of India for years together to bring all Naga rebel outfits on board with a view to arriving at a lasting and honourable solution, acceptable to all stakeholders, to the decades-long Naga imbroglio.
While the NSCN (IM) has been negotiating with the Central Government for long years, several other breakaway factions are also presently on board. However, the NSCN (K) broke away from a truce with the Government of India after 14 years in 2015 to the apparent discomfort of New Delhi.
However, the split in the NSCN (K) on August 17 last in all probability might have come in as a respite for Delhi. Going through the media reports and other sources, at its Council meeting held at its headquarters in the Sagaing region of Myanmar on August 17, the NSCN(K) ‘unanimously impeached’ its chairman, 70 years old Khango Konyak, a Naga of Indian origin, for allegedly violating ‘party discipline’.
While the outfit has appointed Yung Aung (45), a Myanmar-origin Naga and relative of late SS Khaphlang, as its acting chairman, a statement issued by the NSCN (K) stated that Konyak was allowed to leave the region. As per the statement, the ‘impeached’ leader “will be allowed to leave unharmed and given safe passage.”
Meanwhile, reports emanating from various sources indicate that Konyak has left the NSCN (K) stronghold accompanied by about a hundred Indian Naga leaders of the outfit, including the group’s military commander Niki Sumi and the publicity secretary Isaac Sumi, both belonging to the Sema clan of Nagaland.
It is now becoming crystal clear that the NSCN (K) carried out a purging exercise under which the Naga militants of Indian origin were issued the exit diktat. Delving into the history of NSCN (K) brings to light the fact that this strategy of purging the outfit of Indian Nagas is a long drawn one. Since the dawn of this century, a large number of Naga militants of Indian origin left NSCN (K) and formed break-away groups. As of now six rebel factions with the NSCN (IM) in the forefront are on board engaged in the peace process with the Centre.
So far as the latest purging of Indian elements by the NSCN (K) is concerned, It is also diagnosed by some observers as that India could have played a part in the latest drive by Myanmar Army against the outfit, forcing the latter to come to an understanding with that Army and resulting in the driving out of the militants of Indian origin from the outfit by the Myanmar-origin NSCN (K) militants.
Again, while underhand negotiations are very much a part of the game in such situations, one may also guess that New Delhi might possibly have reached out to Konyak to come to the negotiation table. Further, one should not overlook the fact that the powerful Naga Mother’s Association met the NSCN (K) leaders (then headed by Konyak) in Myanmar on two occasions to impress upon the rebels to join the peace talks.
It may be foolish to imagine that the Association did not carry a word from New Delhi, directly or indirectly, in the matter of the peace route. Reports of some kind of understanding between the Indian security agencies and the NSCN (K) leaders of Indian origin also surface earlier this year. These developments only lead to the presumption that the majority group in the outfit hailing from Myanmar were possibly not happy with Konyak’s leadership and hence slapped his ‘impeachment’.
While it is not quite clear as to what strategy Konyak and his fellow rebels would adopt – whether they would join one of the Naga militant groups engaged in talks with the Central Government or form a new group – it is now virtually transparent that NSCN (K) comprising of Naga rebels of Myanmar’s nationality has become a foreign militant outfit.
That being the emerging scenario, it is not quite understandable as to why the Government of India should be involved in any kind of talks with the NSCN(K) which is now a foreign militant outfit comprising nationalities of Myanmar.
Vast majority of the international borders are politically and/or militarily drawn ones. In respect of any such international border, people of the same cultural, religious and linguistic stock are often found to be residing as citizens of two different countries on the two sides of the border.
On the western front of India, Punjabis reside on both sides of the Indo-Pak border as Indian and Pakistani citizens. Likewise, the people of Bangladesh and the residents of the Rakhine province of Myanmar (Rohingyas) are people of the same cultural, religious and linguistic stock. It is another issue that the Myanmar Army launched a cleansing drive to make the region free of Rohingyas.
In a similar manner people of Manipuri stock are to be found on both sides of the international border. Similar is the scenario with the Nagas. Internationally speaking, a huge section of them are Indian citizens while another section comprises of citizens of Myanmar.
In view of the fact that NSCN (K) has become an all Myanmar citizens’ rebel outfit following the expulsion of Indian Nagas from the outfit, all benefits of any agreement between the Centre and rebel Naga outfits of Indian nationality should be reaped mainly by the Naga people of Nagaland. In the fitness of things, the Nagas of Myanmar and for that matter the NSCN (K) should try to sort out their grievances with the Government of Myanmar.
Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org