GUWAHATI:After a 14-year ceasefire-induced lull, violence has made its way back into Nagaland, a state ravaged by insurgency. A series of encounters and ambush on the armed forces in the past two months by the Naga guerrillas are a pointer. In the latest of the attacks, carried out by the SS Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K), seven Assam Rifles jawans and another belonging to the Naga Territorial Army were killed in the state’s Mon district recently. Five others were injured, all of them grievously.
The outfit’s renewed rebellion is threatening to impact other NSCN factions, including the most potent of all Northeastern outfits, NSCN (Isak-Muivah), also known as NSCN-IM. The TR Zeliang-led alliance government in the state is miffed that it was kept in the dark over developments that made the NSCN-K to abrogate the ceasefire unilaterally in March this year.
The outfit entered into a truce with the Central government in 2001, four years after its rival NSCN-IM had signed a similar agreement with New Delhi. The guns’ falling silent had ushered in an era of peace in the state where thousands of lives have been lost in the over six-decade-old insurgency. But the unrest is back.
The NSCN-K’s decision to go back to its old ways stemmed from frustration. Over the last 14 years, the Centre did not hold a single round of formal talks with the outfit. The two sides met several times, but those were during the extension of the truce.
The NSCN-K did not cite any specific reason behind its unilateral abrogation of the ceasefire. “The sovereign existence of the Nagas as a people and nation is indestructible and no force on earth can invalidate the very truth as such that sovereignty is not negotiable,” the outfit had said in a statement issued after ending the truce.
After its decision to re-embrace the gun, the NSCN-K had threatened to target security forces. And it kept its word by unleashing a series of attacks, some of them in civilian areas.
“We have appealed to both the NSCN-K and the Central government to reconsider their decision and continue the peace process. We are all worried that a similar decision might be taken by the NSCN-IM,” Nagaland’s apex social organisation Naga Hoho president Chuba Ozukum told The Sunday Standard.
The NSCN was formed in 1980 by SS Khaplang, Isak Chishi Swu and T Muivah protesting the Shillong Accord signed by the rebel group Naga National Council with the Central government in 1975.
The NSCN-IM has held over 70 rounds of peace parleys with the Centre, within and outside the country, over the last 18 years but a solution continues to elude the Nagas. The group’s one of the most contentious demands is the creation of “Greater Nagaland” by slicing off the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) is equally concerned over the return of turmoil. “The situation is fast deteriorating. We are concerned as the attacks and counter-attacks will only put the lives of the civilians in danger. Peace came to Nagaland after long years of violence and unrest. We pray that it stays,” said NSF president Tongpang Ozukum.
The Nagaland government has urged the Central government to convince the NSCN-K to reconsider its decision. “We want the Centre to convince the NSCN-K to reconsider its stand and rejoin the process of peace. Dialogues and negotiations can only help bring a permanent settlement of the Naga political problem,” Chief Minister T R Zeliang said.