GUWAHATI: It is a question of who is occupying the land.
It is not Paresh Baruah but Khango Konyak, who is likely to head United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW), which is an umbrella organisation of the extremist groups of India’s Northeast operating out of Myanmar.
The septuagenarian Khango Konyak, an Indian Naga, is associated with the Naga insurgency movement since late 1960s. He took over the reins of banned National Socialist Council of Nagaland or NSCN-K in the aftermath of SS Khaplang’s death in Myanmar on Friday.
United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) military chief Paresh Baruah has influence in the neighbouring countries and is powerful. Given that he was the virtual deputy of Khaplang in UNLFW, speculations are rife that he could go on to don the mantle of the united front’s chief. But an insurgent leader, who worked with Khaplang and Khango for years and is now a part of another rebel group, ruled out such a possibility.
The UNLFW has constituents including National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur besides ULFA and NSCN-K. It was the NSCN-K which provided shelter to the other groups after they were cornered in India as well as Bangladesh. So, there is a perception that they would try to remain loyal and grateful by not triggering a power struggle.
A source close to Baruah said the ULFA “commander-in-chief” himself would not accept the post.
“He (Baruah) himself will not accept the position as it could jeopardise the alliance. A section of the leaders in the conglomerate will, for sure, resist any move that is aimed at making him the front’s chairman,” the source said.
The NSCN-K, an insurgent group of the Nagas, has members from both India and Myanmar. Myanmar has been a base for the outfit since its birth in 1988.
In the aftermath of Khaplang’s death, who was a veteran patriarch of Naga insurgency movement, there are speculations that government will try and breach the unity of Indian and Myanmar Nagas in NSCN-K, followed by feelers to the Indian NSCN-K rebels to sit for negotiations.
The Centre is already engaged in peace negotiations with another Naga group NSCN-IM while two others – NSCN-KK and NSCN-R – are in peace mode without signing any truce pacts. The government would surely want that any offer, aimed at resolving the Naga political problem, be acceptable to all the factions.
After Khaplang’s death, Union minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju, said the government would rehabilitate the “Indian” NSCN-K rebels if they surrender. For a group that has been waging an armed struggle for decades to achieve the sovereignty of the Nagas, it is very unlikely that it would reciprocate such a gesture.