NEW DELHI: Two top leaders of Naga rebel group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) and 300-500 armed cadres have crossed over to Myanmar to set up camps there, according to intelligence agencies. The development is a solid indication that NSCN (I-M), that has been part of ongoing talks for a peace accord with the Centre along with other groups, is not on-board with the Centre.
The rebel group is against the Centre on most contentious issues such as a separate flag and constitution for Nagaland. The government has made it clear that these two demands will not be met, sources said. Meanwhile, 17 NSCN (IM) members have left the group and joined Naga National Political Groups, an umbrella organisation part of the talks that wants a solution to the discord.
Sources in the security establishment, however, said in a total strength of nearly 4,000, 17 members leaving the group hardly mean anything. "If NSCN (IM) is not part of the peace deal it will be of little consequence," said an official.
The Modi government was hoping for a breakthrough by October 31 but sources say that arriving on a consensus by then looks unlikely. The Central government has been holding peace talks with NSCN (IM) since 1997 when the militant outfit became part of a ceasefire agreement.
NSCN (IM) has been demanding integration of Naga-inhabited areas in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh but this has been opposed by the Centre. The Centre signed a framework agreement with it in 2015 for an early end to India’s oldest insurgency and NSCN (IM) had signed the framework agreement then.
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The NSCN was founded on January 31, 1980. Its leaders were Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and SS Khaplang. The group was further divided into many factions. But for long, there were two divisions — NSCN (IM) led by Isak and Muivah and Khaplang’s faction came to be known as NSCN(K). Sources said, now with no breakthrough, there is a fear that NSCN (IM) could explore other options like coordinating with NSCN (K).
An official said, “The fear is based on ground intelligence. But it remains to be seen if they are prepared to go back to the jungles? Most of the present cadre came in after the ceasefire and have been living in designated camps in Nagaland and Manipur. They haven’t really fought so going back to it won’t be easy.”