North East in Flux
Khaplang’s death is an irreparable loss for anti-India groups based in Myanmar
The death of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (K) Chairman Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang has added a new twist to the protracted Naga problem. Khaplang was one of the strongest insurgent leaders in India’s North East and Upper Myanmar region. He established his own territory in Saigaing division of Myanmar fighting against Myanmarese and Indian armed forces. The elusive Naga leader died on June 9, 2017 at Taga in Myanmar, the GHQ of NSCN (K), after a prolonged illness.
Unlike other Naga leaders, Khaplang was a Hemi Naga from Myanmar. The 77 year-old leader had a strong influence in Myanmar’s Saigaing division, where several North Eastern militant groups, including United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) or ULFA (I), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbojit) or NDFB (S) and Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO) took shelter under his patronage.
A number of Meitei militant outfits of Manipur maintained their bases in the region under Khaplang’s supervision. Security analysts said NSCN (K) supremo’s death would seriously affect all these militant groups operating from Myanmar. Khaplang’s death will also have adverse impact on the source of the outfit’s funding. Reports say Khaplang used to run a flourishing arms racket and other illicit businesses.
In an effort to resolve the Naga problem, an agreement was signed between Naga National Council (NNC) and the union government in 1975, referred to as the Shillong Accord. But Khaplang, along with Thuingaleng Muivah and Issak Chisi Swu vehemently opposed the pact and decided to continue the armed struggle to achieve sovereignty for the Nagas. The trio formed NSCN on January 31, 1980. However, Khaplang split and launched his own group NSCN (K) in May 1988 following serious political differences with Muivah and Swu.
Like the Issak-Muivah faction (IM), the NSCN (K) ran almost a parallel government in Nagaland and parts of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh for several decades. Both factions of NSCN emerged as the most organized and armed insurgent groups threatening the North East’s peace, stability, security and territorial integrity. The NSCN (K) entered a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in 2001, but unilaterally abrogated it on March 28, 2015, citing the issue of sovereignty. Following this, the Centre banned the NSCN (K) in 2016 by a special notification.
Khaplang was a hardliner opposing peace talks with New Delhi. So his death is an irreparable loss for the anti-Indian groups based in Myanmar. Reports say Vice-chairman Khango Konyak, who belongs to Nagaland’s Mon district bordering Myanmar, was made the interim head of the outfit immediately after Khaplang’s death. It remains to be seen whether Khaplang’s successor Konyak is more aggressive than him. The future of insurgency in North East will depend on the ability of the outfit’s new leadership to cope with the challenges thrown by Khaplang’s death and the nature of relationship between the Naga rebel group and the other ethnic militant outfits operating from Myanmar.
Intelligence agencies maintain that Khaplang’s death will erode the base of