New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) If the government succeeds in persuading the remaining five factions of the NSCN to get on board the peace process, it will weaken several other insurgent groups in northeast India who are heavily dependent on the Naga outfits for arms, financial support and training, experts say.
This will pave the way for a peaceful northeast following decades of violence and turmoil, they add.
Parliamentarians from the region have asserted that if the government is able to persuade the various factions of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to shun arms, it will have a direct effect on other militant groups in other states, including United Liberation Front of Assam-(ULFA) Independent, several factions of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO) and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL).
“The Naga conflict being the oldest is the root of the entire extremism in the northeast. Certainly, if it is resolved and the government successfully convinces all the factions of the NSCN to be part of the accord, then the strength of other militant groups in the region will dwindle,” Nagaland’s lone Rajya Sabha member Khekiho Zhimomi told IANS.
The 70-year-old Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) leader, who has been familiar with the Naga conflict for decades said that even ULFA, which started claiming a sovereign Assam, picked up arms after drawing inspiration from the Naga National Council (NNC) and the NSCN.
On June 3, the NSCN-IM (Isak-Muivah) and the Indian government had signed the Naga Peace Accord, concluding almost 20 years of peace negotiations that started in 1997 after the group signed a ceasefire agreement.
The central government’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, R.N. Ravi, is in Nagaland where he is likely to meet leaders of other factions of the NSCN. A delegation of 16 members from the state’s civil society groups have also been given security clearance to travel to Eastern Nagaland to meet NSCN-K (Khaplang).
Zhimomi noted that the roots of the Naga problem go back to the Government of India Act of 1919, when, despite the Naga Hills District being declared a backward tract and keeping it out of the British Indian Empire, the Naga Hills were later made part of India.
“As the Naga groups have now accepted the supremacy of the Indian constitution, the government needs to find out a permanent solution, which will benefit the entire Naga community,” Zhimomi said.
The northeast has over 50 active extremist groups, including the five factions of the NSCN — NSCN-IM, NSCN-Khaplang, NSCN-Unification, NSCN-Reformation and NSCN-Khole-Kitovi and the oldest of them all, the Naga National Council (NNC).
Asserting that without solving the Naga issue, peace in the northeast is a distant dream, Zhimomi said: “Even the newly floated United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW) under the leadership of NSCN-K chief S.S. Khaplang is the sheer evidence that other militant groups of the region have the support of Naga militant groups.”
UNLFW is a conglomerate of ULFA-I, NDFB, the Manipur-based KLO and KYKL. The front had claimed responsibility for the killing of 20 soldiers of the Indian Army’s Dogra regiment in an ambush in Manipur in early June.
Naba Sarania, a Lok Sabha member from Assam’s Kokrajhar district, told IANS: “By bringing all the factions of NSCN under the Naga Accord, the government will destroy the hideouts of all other militant groups of the region, mostly located in the deep forests of the India-Myanmar and India-China borders.”
“Apart from moral support, Naga militant groups have also provided arms and training to emerging militant groups in the northeast. If all the NSCN factions lay down arms, it is for sure that the other outfits will also follow them and seek a solution through negotiation, as there will be no one to motivate them,” Sarania added.
“Until now, taking shelter in Bangladesh and Myanmar was possible only through the Naga leaders. But if the Naga rebels themselves join the peace accord, then there is no way out for the other militant groups to sustain,” he said.
C.L. Ruala, Mizoram’s lone Lok Sabha member, told IANS: “Weakening other extremist groups of the northeast by persuading NSCN factions to join the Naga Accord is what the government has been actually trying to do. It is like killing two birds with one stone.”
“Unlike the NSCN’s factions, emerging extremist outfits of Manipur/Meghalaya do not have enough manpower or funds to operate independently. NSCN has been the backbone of militancy in the region that is likely to go now. This is completely in favour of the region,” Ruala noted.