GUWAHATI: Guwahati: United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW), an umbrella organisation of militants of Northeast, has virtually got rejuvenated after Khango Konyak, chairman of SS Khaplang faction of Naga insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) became its chief.
The fate of the conglomerate—operating out of Myanmar and responsible for some deadly attacks on security forces—was uncertain after the death of its erstwhile chairman SS Khaplang a few months ago. After the demise of Khaplang, a hugely popular leader, the UNLFW was lying low and there were speculations about its early death.
Konyak was unanimously appointed the UNLFW chief after weeks of deliberations by leaders of the Paresh Baruah faction of United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), anti-talks faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), People’s Democratic Council of Karbi-Longri (PDCK), People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur and Kamatapur Liberation Organisation, besides the NSCN-K.
Apart from Konyak, the only other contender was Baruah, the ULFA “commander-in-chief”. Konyak won the race primarily due to two reasons: his acceptability among the insurgent groups and because the land where they were holed up in belonged to Naga rebels. “Paresh Baruah had set his eyes on the post, but some groups, particularly NDFB and PDCK, were opposed to his donning the mantle. Secondly, Konyak is a soldier who is loved and respected by all groups besides Nagas in both India and Myanmar. So, he was a natural choice,” a defence source, handling insurgency in the Northeast, told The New Indian Express.
Defence sources believe that Konyak, like Khaplang, would be able to lead the UNLFW from the front. His appointment comes amidst the buzz in Nagaland and parts of the Northeast that a solution to the protracted Naga political problem, vis-à-vis Naga insurgency issue, was afoot. What strengthened the speculation was that six other Naga groups joined the process of dialogues recently. Two of them were breakaway factions of the NSCN-K.
Knowing well that a solution excluding the NSCN-K will not bring permanent peace to insurgency-ravaged Nagaland, there is a perception that the Centre might try to bring the outfit to the talks table.
“The government has already started sending feelers to them. They haven’t yet responded,” the defence source said.
Unlike NSCN’s Isak-Muivah faction NSCN-IM, which is arguably the most powerful insurgent group of the Northeast and the main player in the ongoing negotiations with the Centre, the NSCN-K under Khaplang had never scaled down from its original demand—the sovereignty of the Nagas. The NSCN-IM demands a unified Naga homeland called “Greater Nagaland” within the country by integrating the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
With Konyak taking over the reins of both NSCN-K and UNLFW, his moves remain to be seen. But those who know him say he will not betray the Nagas.