North East in Flux

Kha­p­lang’s death is an ir­repara­ble loss for anti-In­dia groups based in Myan­mar

The Day After - - NATIONAL POLITICS - By RupAk BhAt­tAchARjEE

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

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