On February 27, 2014, at a meeting sponsored by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) in Dimapur, 31 Naga organisations extended their full support to the Naga reconciliation process and urged the FNR to continue strengthening and pursing the task of Reconciliation at a time of deep crisis. The Naga bodies also implored all Naga tribe and civil society organizations to consciously work towards reconciliation in the spirit of forgiveness, towards a shared future: “Recognizing that reconciliation is a continuous process, we urge all Naga political groups to join Naga reconciliation and to unitedly pursue the Naga political and historical rights for the common good of all.” FNR was formed in May 2008.
On October 8, 2013, amidst increasing factional killings and other forms of violence in Naga areas, FNR had observed that, if the reconciliation process was to continue with credibility, the Naga militant organizations would have to immediately stop violence perpetrated in any form. The FNR had then urged the leaders of the Naga underground groups to demonstrate their statesmanship by putting aside factional politics and work for the common Naga cause of justice and peace. It is useful to recall, here, that on March 23, 2013, Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), NSCN-Khole-Kitovi (NSCN-KK) and Naga National Council/Federal Government of Nagaland (NNC/FGN) functionaries had held another round of meetings on reconciliation at Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Even as the efforts for reconciliation amongst the Nagas continued, fresh challenges have emerged, besides the well known factional clashes between Naga rebel groups. When Rengma Nagas and the Karbis clashed in Assam in December 2013, the effect was felt in Nagaland. On December 27, 2013, at least four persons, the village headman and three women, all belonging to Rengma Naga community, were shot dead by Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT) militants in Khowanigaon, under the Borpathar Police Station in the Karbi Anglong District of Assam. Sources indicated that KPLT militants had issued an ultimatum to Rengma Nagas to leave the District by December 25. On the same day [December 27], a Naga militant outfit, Rengma Naga Hills Protection Force (RNHPF), had retaliated and launched a counter–attack on the KPLT militants, killing two of them. Further on December 29, 2013 Security Forces recovered the bullet-riddled, decomposed bodies of two aged women, suspected to have been killed by KPLT cadres, at Rengma Mouza, Bokajan in Karbi Anglong District.
There was a standoff between the NSCN-IM and the Sumi Nagas following an incident in December 2013. The tension started when four armed NSCN-IM cadres allegedly molested two Sumi women and assaulted two men travelling to Zunheboto at Aghuyito village near Zunheboto District on December 21, 2013. The incident triggered mass resentment among the Sumi community, triggering a massive rally on December 22, where it was resolved that the errant NSCN-IM cadres should be handed over to the District administration within three days, failing which a call for non-cooperation with NSCN-IM would be initiated. When the Sumi Hoho (the apex organisation of the Sumi community) asked the outfit to hand over its cadres, it refused.
On December 28, hundreds of Sumis, angered by the December 21 incident, marched towards the NSCN-IM’s designated camp at Mukalimi village under Pughoboto Subdivision in Zunheboto District, where they were fired on, allegedly by NSCN-IM cadres, leading to the death of two persons and injuries to six others. On January 2, 2014, the Sumi Hoho in Nagaland declared December 28 as “Martyrs’ Day” to honour the two Sumi volunteers who died during the three-day siege of the NSCN-IM’s camp at Mukalimi in Zunheboto District. The NSCN-IM vacated the Mukalima camp On December 30, after much persuasion by the Centre and State Government. An NSCN-IM source claimed that the cadres vacated the camp on their own, but sources disclose that they did so only after much discussion with the Government. A Sumi general public meeting held under the aegis of the Sumi Hoho at Zunheboto on January 7, 2014, further resolved that the NSCN-IM would not be permitted to establish its designated camps within Sumi-inhabited areas and thereby decided to sever all ties with NSCN-IM.
The beginning of 2014 has brought no relief. In the night of January 3, 2014, highly decomposed bodies of nine persons, blindfolded, their hands tied and shot from close range, were recovered from a gorge in the Pachaspura area, Chumekedima, in Dimapur District in Nagaland. On January 6, Nagaland Police disclosed that all the nine dead bodies were ethnic Karbis from the Karbi Anglong District of Assam, and included a missing Karbi Students Association (KSA) leader, Harlongbi Engti. The incident was purportedly in retaliation against the killing of Rengma Nagas in Assam in December 2013. The RNHPF claimed responsibility for the Dimapur killings. There were also reports that the RNHPF was floated under the patronage of the NSCN-IM for protection of the Rengma Naga people living in Karbi Anglong. On January 4, 2014, the Nagaland Government constituted a three-member High Power Enquiry Committee (HPEC) to probe the recovery of the nine bodies. The Nagaland Home Department asserted that the HPEC had been constituted alongside the Police investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), which had alleged that another seven NSCN-IM cadres were behind the Dimapur killings. Cease Fire Monitoring Group (CFMG) Chairman Lt. Gen (Retd.) N.K Singh also stated that the involvement of NSCN-IM had come to light with the arrest of three alleged accused in this incident. The arrest date was unspecified.
A January 6, 2014, report indicated that over 3,000 people from the Karbi and Rengma Naga tribes had been taking shelter in relief camps in the Bokajan area of the Karbi Anglong District since December 27, 2013, due to violent clashes between the KPLT and the RNHPF. Karbi Anglong Superintendent of Police Mugdhajyoti Mahanta disclosed that, as on January 6, 2014, 3,131 people were taking shelter in nine relief camps. Of them, 1,683 were Rengma Nagas and 1,448 were Karbis. On February 1, 2013, the Rengma Naga organisations in Karbi Anglong District reiterated their demand for the creation of a Rengma Hills Autonomous District Council (RHADC) , with its headquarters at Bokajan, through the separation of the Rengma Hills from Karbi Anglong, on the basis of the original boundary of the Hills and Rengma Mouzas (an earlier nomenclature for a revenue collection unit). Later on February 4, the RNHPF declared that peace could return to Karbi Anglong District only if the Rengma Nagas were given constitutional protection or a political identity separate from the Karbis.
Despite these fresh challenges, fatalities in Nagaland dropped dramatically from 61 [six civilians and 55 militants] in 2012 to just 32 [11 civilians and 21 militants] in 2013, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). Internecine clashes within the State also declined from 43 incidents in 2012, resulting in 53 persons killed and 23 injured, to 18 incidents in 2013, resulting in 12 killed and 11 injured. 2012 had witnessed intense factional killing between NSCN-K and NSCN-KK, which visibly slowed down in 2013. In one major factional clash during the year, three NSCN-K cadres were killed and one was injured by NSCN-KK cadres at Sikiu ‘A’, under the Shamator Sub-division, Tuensang District.
Factional killings amongst the Nagas had spiked after the formation of NSCN-KK on June 7, 2011, and the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF), a Manipur based outfit, on February 25, 2011. Outside Nagaland, SATP recorded seven incidents of fratricidal clashes [resulting in nine killed and two injured] between Naga militant groups in 2013, as against such 13 incidents [resulting in 27 killed and 10 injured] in 2012. Fatalities in Nagaland registered an upward trend, till they peaked at 145 in 2008, but fell drastically in 2009 and 2010. The dramatic drop in fatalities in 2009 and 2010 came in the aftermath of the signing of the Covenant of Reconciliation in mid-2009. However, this emerging trend was dramatically reversed after the emergence of ZUF and NSCN-KK in 2011.
Source: SATP, *Data till March 2, 2014
Arms smuggling remains an issue in Nagaland, with at least 25 arms dealers arrested in 11 incidents through 2013. The arrestees included at least three NNC and two NSCN-IM cadres. On November 12, 2013, seven arms smugglers, including two NSCN-IM cadres, were arrested by the Assam Rifles in Dimapur District, and a huge cache of arms was seized from them.
In a significant breakthrough, on August 30, 2013, the NSCN-IM arms supplier, identified as Wuthikorn Naruenartwanich alias Willy Narue, was arrested by Bangkok Police while arranging for the supply of Chinese arms to the NSCN-IM. Naruenartwanich has been accused of buying nearly 1,000 assault rifles and an unspecified number of rocket-propelled grenades to be sold to the outfit. Naruenartwanich, a Thai national, was reportedly picked up at India’s request. On September 22, the Thai gunrunner revealed “key information” about the supply chain for smuggling arms from China to the Northeast through Bangladesh. An official source disclosed that preliminary questioning of the accused by Thai authorities had revealed that Naruenartwanich, along with NSCN-IM , had hatched a plan to send a huge consignment of arms and ammunition from China to the Northeast. The official stated, “Willy had told Thai Police that the arms consignment was to start from Beihei port in South China Sea near Vietnam to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. On the high seas, the consignment was to be shifted to small fishing trawlers to reach Bangladesh, and then to the Northeast.”
Naruenartwanich was reportedly the main interlocutor of Anthony Shimray, the chief arms procurer of NSCN-IM, who was arrested from Patna (Bihar) in October 2010. He had brokered a USD 2 million deal involving supply of some 1,000 firearms, including 600 AK-47s and ammunition, with Chinese arms dealers. The deal, according to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) chargesheet, was renegotiated to USD 1 million. The Chinese arms dealer is one of the four accused charge-sheeted by the NIA following Shimray’s arrest.
Further, the SATP database recorded the arrest of 146 militants in 2013, in 69 incidents. These included 26 NSCN-IM, 23 NSCN-K, 22 NSCN-KK and 11 of the IK Songbijit faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS). 93 militants were arrested in 2012.
SATP also recorded 10 incidents of abduction, in which 12 persons were abducted, as against three such incidents in 2012. In the worst such incident in 2013, two bodies, suspected to be that of a driver and a cleaner, were recovered from Sakhaba village in Kohima District on February 3, 2013. Suspected NSCN-K militants had abducted drivers and cleaners of four trucks from Manipur, near Kohima, on the grounds that the truck owners had not heeded their extortion demands. A ‘tax’ of INR two million each had been demanded from the owners.
Eight incidents of explosion were recorded in 2013. Two civilians were killed in two of these incidents. 2012 recorded only two incidents of explosion, injuring two persons.
Nine incidents of extortion were reported in 2013, as against 11 such incidents in 2012 [the incidence is likely to have been much higher, as most victims comply without reporting the demands to the Police].
2013 also saw the formation of the Action Committee Against Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) in Dimapur. The ACAUT was formed by several organizations under the aegis of Naga Council in May 2013, in an effort to check the rampant imposition of ‘illegal tax‘on the people, especially the business community, by various organizations, particularly including Naga underground outfits. On October 31, 2013, several thousand persons from all sections of society showed up to express support and solidarity with the campaign spearheaded by ACAUT. After the rally, however, NSCN-declared that ACAUT had no authority to ‘dictate the people’. Earlier, on June 8, 2013, during a meeting with ACAUT, NSCN-IM leaders had asserted that, as a people-mandated revolutionary group, they had the ‘right to tax’ people.
Interestingly, a November 11, 2013, report observed that NSCN-IM had officially revealed, for the first time, that it had hundreds of members and several offices in foreign countries. Reiterating its stand on ‘taxation’, the group had asserted that it had to collect ‘tax’ from the Naga-inhabited areas of Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Myanmar, to support its members in foreign countries. The outfit also warned ACAUT, claiming that the organization was hand-in-glove with NSCN-IM’s adversaries, and sought to undermine Naga nationalism, which would never be tolerated.
NSCN-IM continues to maintain a base in Bangladesh from where arms are supplied to the outfit’s camps in the region. According to a November 11, 2012, report, NSCN-IM had four camps out of the 51 still in existence of Northeast militant groups still present in Bangladesh. It also has offices in the United States, Germany, Netherlands, China, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines and the United Kingdom. According to intelligence sources, the outfit spends thousands of dollars to maintain its network abroad. According to intelligence sources, the outfit’s annual budget has increased manifold as a result of heavy recruitment and procurement of arms from foreign countries, to over INR 1 billion per year. There are an estimated 25,000 NSCN-IM cadres, each receiving a salary ranging between INR 2,000 and INR 15,000, according to ‘rank’.
Meanwhile, talks between the Government of India (GoI) and the NSCN-IM have been going on without any concrete progress. The negotiation process faced a further setback with the Centre’s interlocutor, R.S. Pandey resigning on December 16, 2013, after announcing that he would be contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. A top official of the Union Home Ministry, on February 14, 2014, disclosed that the Government would announce the name of the new interlocutor after the Parliament session.
On January 26, 2014, Nagaland Governor Nikhil Kumar expressed his regret on the failure to settle the Naga political issue before the State Assembly elections. Addressing the Republic Day (January 26) celebration in the State capital, Kohima, Kumar appealed to all sections of the Nagas to continue working for a peaceful settlement. On October 10, 2012, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Sushil Kumar Shinde, had reportedly hinted that a ‘solution’ to the ‘Naga issue’ was likely before March 2013, when Assembly polls in Nagaland were due.
Meanwhile, the ceasefire between GoI and NSCN-K was extended for a year on April 22, 2013. On April 26, 2013, the ceasefire agreement between GoI and NSCN-KK was also reviewed and extended for a year, with effect from April 28, 2013.
2013 also saw a renewed agitation for the creation of a separate State by the “Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation” (ENPO) following the decision of the Congress working committee to carve out the Telengana State from Andhra Pradesh. In a symbolic move to intensify the demand for separate statehood – ‘Frontier Nagaland’ – the six tribes of Eastern Nagaland, under the aegis of ENPO, observed a “Black Day” on August 15, 2013. ENPO took the decision as “a practical message” to the GoI, to demand the ‘immediate declaration’ of Statehood with a special status within the Indian Constitution, based on the distinctive and different historical and geo-political background of Eastern Nagaland – comprising the four Districts of Mon, Tuensang, Kiphire and Longleng. The demand has already been turned down by both the Centre and the State Government. The demand was first raised in the year 2010. ENPO has also rejected the State Government’s offer of an autonomous council, regional council and economic package, in lieu of ‘Frontier Nagaland’.
The promise of a ‘solution’ to the vexed ‘Naga issue’ has long been belied, and though the peace process has stemmed the force of India’s longest insurgency, it is yet to give a real peace to the people of the State. The uncertainty, the jockeying for power, the regimes of illegal ‘taxation’ and intimidation, the continuing sway of armed non-state groups, and the exacerbating inter-tribal tensions, keep the situation at a constant simmer, boiling over into violence from time to time. Unless a settlement of the issue is achieved, and one that is perceived as just by all affected parties, it is unlikely that things will change dramatically in Nagaland.