NEW DELHI: Even as the government is exploring every option to bring the various factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) within the recently inked Naga Peace Accord, the outfit's strongest group NSCN (Isak-Muivah) is recruiting fresh cadre from parts of eastern Nagaland.
The recruitment drive was started immediately after the Naga accord was signed between the Narendra Modi government and NSCN(IM) on August 3, following nearly 20 years of intense negotiations.
NSCN(IM) secretary for ministry of information and publicity W. Zimik admitted that the recruitment was on, but said it was "completely on a voluntary basis" and that no one would be compelled to join.
"There is one specific place where the recruitment drive is being carried out. It's completely depending on the areas from which the youth want to join. However, if the parents of the youth do not want them to join, then we are not compelling them," Zimik told IANS over phone from Dimapur, in Nagaland.
Although the youth were free to join NSCN(IM), they will not undergo any arms training, Zimik added.
The government, though, seems to be unaware of the move by the accord co-signatory. Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said he did not have any information about this development.
"I will have to check if this is really happening. I will respond once I get the complete report," Rijiju told IANS.
According to sources knowledgeable about the developments, NSCN(IM) was conducting its recruitment drive in its stronghold Tuensang district where the youth were being mobilised to join.
"The fresh recruits are being falsely told that the government has allowed them (NSCN-IM) to carry on the recruitment and that they will be paid salary," a source told IANS.
The recruiters were apparently telling the youth that this would be the last batch of recruitment. Although some parents have accepted the faction's claims, a majority of them were worried as the NSCN(IM) had also said during earlier recruitments that it was "their last recruitment drive", the source said.
Usually, after a peace accord is inked, militant groups are not allowed to take in new cadres. Instead, the government generally aims to rehabilitate the existing ones. However, experts on the North-Eastern region have said that the situation on the Naga issue might be different as the NSCN(IM) claims itself to be a political group and not a military one.
A ministry of home affairs source had earlier said two army and four paramilitary battalions would be raised to accommodate the existing NSCN(IM) cadres, numbering around 5,000. That may possibly be one reason why the former militant group wants to take in more people.
NSCN(IM) is already supposed to have recruited over 1,000 new cadres from Dimapur, the commercial hub of the state. It has also verbally directed village councils to send youngsters for recruitment.
E.M. Rammohan, former director general of Border Security Force and an expert on the country's North-Eastern region, said: "The actual devil is in the accord details. Calling the recruitment drive illegitimate as of now won't be correct because we do not know what is there in the accord."
He said if there was a clause in the accord that prevents the recruitment of cadre, then the NSCN(IM) "is infringing the norms and inviting trouble. However, in case there is any such clause that makes it possible, which actually should not be the condition, then nothing can be done", Rammohan said.
He said the government should not have any problem with the recruitment drive if it's done as a political step. But it has to ensure that the recruits are not given any arms training, he cautioned.