New Delhi, Sept. 28: The Centre appears to have etched the international border deeper by holding back approval for NGOs scheduled to go across and meet the Myanmar-based NSCN (Khaplang) in an attempt to persuade it to return to ceasefire.
The NSCN (K) includes members from Naga tribes straddling both countries. It had abrogated a 14-year-old ceasefire with the Centre in March this year and followed it up with ambushes on security forces. The Centre had banned the outfit earlier this month.
Naga civil society groups, including the Eastern Naga People’s Organisation (ENPO) and the Naga Hoho, who had planned to meet Khaplang’s appointed delegation at Khamti in Myanmar, are “puzzled” at the abrupt ban.
“We are puzzled,” ENPO president Khoiwang Konyak said over phone today. He said his organisation was preparing to ask the NSCN (K) to return to the negotiating table. However, he said he would focus on the ENPO’s demand for a separate state of “Frontier Nagaland” instead of confronting the Centre.
The Union home ministry had initially accorded permission to the NGO delegates to visit Myanmar after a request from the Nagaland government for back-door negotiation. A final nod could be given only from the office of the national security adviser, Ajit Doval. In the meantime, the home ministry banned the outfit.
Many in the ENPO are disappointed with the Centre’s action. “On the one hand, the Prime Minister’s office and the interlocutor say they want inclusive solution and then the Centre bans the NSCN (K). So what do we understand?” asked a senior leader.
A section in the government believes that the presence of Naga insurgents from India afforded a peep for Indian security agencies into Myanmar. With a ban in place and shutting out of the Naga rebel outfit, that crack in the door has also been sealed, feel some in the security establishment.
“Since 2013, the Myanmar government provided the NSCN (K) with 7,000 quintals of rice, Rs 4 crore in cash, 500 uniforms and 46 SUVs for transport,” a source privy to some of these alleged transactions told The Telegraph. “Myanmar President Thein Sein met rebel leaders from diverse groups twice this year,” the sources said.
Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, expects to reap dividends for taking care of a restive population in the north as it readies for the November 8 general elections that the world will watch keenly.
The Centre’s actions on the run-up to the ban are also viewed with some suspicion, particularly by Naga organisations.
On August 28, the Assam Rifles had attacked members of the NSCN (K) at Pangsha in Tuensang district in which eight persons were killed. The Naga Mothers’ Association later alleged that the security forces had killed innocent people.
The home ministry declared the NSCN (K) a banned outfit within days of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) declaring a bounty for S.S. Khaplang and his deputy Niki Sumi.
Security forces said the NSCN (K) was involved in an attack on a group of soldiers of 6 Dogra Regiment in Chandel district of Manipur. Eighteen soldiers were killed in the attack by a joint group of militants from the NSCN (K) and three Valley-based groups of Manipur. This attack and a unilateral abrogation of ceasefire were the reason for a ban on the outfit, government sources said.
However, questions are being raised on facts given out by official sources.
“Only two Nagas were involved in the June operation against the army, the rest were all Manipuri militants,” a source said. “One of the two Nagas involved was killed while the other escaped to Myanmar. So why only blame the NSCN (Khaplang)?” the source asked.
The claim is partially corroborated by sources in the army who have admitted that the attacking party of militants had more members from Manipur’s Valley-based outfits and fewer from NSCN (K).
For former Khaplang acolytes, some of the Pangmi Naga leaders’ actions may have put him to disadvantage. In the last week of August, Khaplang decided that Yaungaung, a kilonser (minister) from his own tribe, would meet the delegation from Nagaland instead of Khango Konyak and Niki Sumi. The latter two belong to Nagaland while Yaungaung is a Naga from Myanmar. “This means that he is against leaders from India,” said a former aide of Khaplang.
The octogenarian has been accused of reducing the clout of others.