ISSN 2330-717X

India: The Challenge Of Peace – Analysis

By

By Veronica Khangchian

In his 2011 New Year message, S. Singnya, the President of the ‘Federal Government of Nagaland/ Naga National Council’ (FGN/NNC) declared,

After several rounds of reconciliation meets and the declaration of unconditional unity, I strongly believe that the present peaceful Naga society will never again be called a fratricidal society, regardless of the past. The Naga society is now genuinely and swiftly moving in the right direction.

This hope was quickly belied, as internecine clashes among Naga militant groups have already resulted in at least 38 fatalities since January 1, 2011. National Socialist Council of Nagaland—Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) have been the most prominent groups involved in this fratricidal confrontation. In one incident, intelligence sources disclosed, over 35 cadres of these groups were killed in the night of February 24-25, 2011, on the Tirap (Arunachal Pradesh)-Myanmar border. The IM faction lost 30 of its cadres when their 100-strong armed group, trying to enter Tirap from Myanmar’s Sagiang Division, was ambushed by the rival Khaplang faction. The Khaplang faction lost about five of its cadres.

India
India

This was the largest clash in the ongoing conflict between the two groups since December 2010. The conflict in Tirap-Changlang has been ongoing for nearly a decade, as the rivals engage in a contest to secure dominance over the two strategically located Districts in Eastern Arunachal Pradesh. These Districts serve as a transit route for militants from India’s north-east, taking shelter in largely un-administered areas of Myanmar. According to reports, at least two NSCN-IM cadres were killed and another five injured when the NSCN-K cadres uprooted the only NSCN-IM camp at Khamlang village under Changlang District in Arunachal Pradesh on December 27, 2010.

Meanwhile, clashes among these Naga groups crossed India’s frontiers, when severe fighting broke out between them somewhere inside Myanmar on February 26, 2011. At least two NSCN-K cadres were reportedly injured in the fighting.

The bloodshed, moreover, also reaches inwards within these factions as well. ‘Brigadier’ Chipu Menon, the NSCN-K ‘head’ from Tirap, for instance, was killed in the Mon District of Nagaland by another NSCN-K cadre on March 17, 2011. Sources indicated that Menon was summoned from Tirap to Mon by higher-ups, to sort out issues related to ‘organizational management’, which included disciplinary and financial matters. Menon had earlier been warned to “abide by the organizational discipline” but “did not pay any heed.”

Meanwhile, in an indication of rising differences among the ‘champions of the Naga community’, a new outfit, the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF), was floated on February 25, 2011, with a primary aim to protect the interests of the Zeliangrong tribe, with the slogan “Zeliangrong Ringtelo,” meaning ‘Long live the Zeliangrong people’. Police sources believe that the new outfit was formed by around 10 NSCN-IM cadres who deserted the group, along with arms and ammunition, and joined up with some NSCN-K cadres. A ZUF cadre was killed on March 5, 2011, in a clash with suspected NSCN-IM cadres near Khoupum Khunou village in Tamenglong District, Manipur.

Opposition to the signing of the Shillong Accord on November 11, 1975 between the Government of India (GoI) and some representatives of the Naga National Council (NNC), had led to the formation of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) with Isak Chishi Swu as the ‘Chairman’, S. S. Khaplang as the ‘Vice Chairman’ and Thuingaleng Muivah as the ‘General Secretary’. No one could have imagined, then, that this would be the beginning of a serious fratricidal confrontation which remains unabated till date. Factionalism began after April 30, 1988, when a bloody clash between supporters of Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu, on one side, and Khaplang, on the other, resulted in the split of NSCN into two groups – NSCN-IM and NSCN-K. At least 100 people were killed in the clash. Since their inception, both the groups have been constantly engaged in a violent contest to establish their hegemony.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal Database, a total of 417 Naga militants have been killed and another 97 injured in the internecine clashes since 2001. Fatalities registered an upward trend (barring 2001), till they peaked at 110 in 2008, but fell drastically in 2009 and 2010.

Casualties among Naga outfits in internecine clashes: 2001-2011

Year
Killed
Injured
2001
13
2
2002
22
0
2003
14
0
2004
21
2
2005
28
6
2006
70
31
2007
82
29
2008
110
14
2009
11
9
2010
8
2
2011*
38
2
Total
417
97
Source: SATP
*Data till April 10, 2011

The drop in killings was the result of a ‘Covenant of Reconciliation’ (CoR) signed by the top leaders of three Naga Political groups – NSCN-K, NSCN-IM and FGN/NNC – on June 13, 2009, after a Naga Reconciliation meet was held in Chiang Mai in Thailand from June 1 to June 8, 2009. The CoR, reaffirmed again on September 18, 2010, states that the Naga political groups, in the name of God and witnessed by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, declared to the Naga people and the entire world resolving to, among others, desist from pursuing territorial expansion so that a conducive atmosphere is sustained for strengthening the Naga Reconciliation Process. Since then, 45 ‘reconciliation summits’ have taken place – 36 rounds in Nagaland and nine in Chiang Mai.

The recent ‘highest level meeting’ of the Naga Reconciliation Committee, which was to be held during the visit of NSCN-IM leaders in March 2011, however, could not take place due to the sudden review of the decision by the NSCN-K.

It now appears that the period of bonhomie is over. Unsurprisingly, the NSCN-K accused the IM of blatantly violating the CoR and ‘ordering military operations’ in eastern Nagaland. On February 26, 2011, NSCN-K spokesperson P. Tikhak stated, “What is happening in eastern Nagaland is a unilateral abrogation of the CoR by NSCN-IM,” adding further that reconciliation among different parties cannot happen by holding guns in the hand or by one party considering himself or herself superior to others. A joint statement issued on February 27, 2011, by NSCN-K and FGN, two of the three signatories of the CoR, noted,

Naga people are informed that while Mr. Isak Chishi Swu and Th. Muivah demand sincerity from the GoI, back home in Nagaland, despite being a signatory of the CoR they have miserably failed to be sincere to their own people. The ink on the documents they signed is still wet, yet they are threatening to throw Nagaland into further turmoil. Naga people have the right to know why Mr. Muivah has ordered military offensive in eastern Nagaland.

The NSCN-K has now declared that the reconciliation process was a “closed chapter because of the NSCN-IM… It is not worthwhile to stretch on the interaction on reconciliation if the people you approach are a confused lot and are not prepared to reconcile in true spirit. What is the use of holding reconciliation meetings if we cannot abide by the resolutions adopted?” Tikhak said on February 26, 2011.

Expectedly, the NSCN-IM, claimed that it remained “deeply committed” to the peace process and reconciliation. On February 28, 2011, Muivah however, argued, “But while we are deeply engaged in the works of peace and reconciliation a number of Naga Army personnel (armed wing of the NSCN-IM) were killed by the Khaplang party in different incidents under their declared military offensive campaigns against NSCN in Tirap and Changlang Districts of Arunachal Pradesh. We will never allow ourselves to be sitting ducks when enemies attack us… They (the rivals) are always on the offensive.”

The recent upswing in the factional differences has also impacted on the ongoing talks between the NSCN-IM and GoI. On March 2, 2011, the NSCN-IM held the first round of talks with the Government’s newly appointed interlocutor, R.S. Pandey, at New Delhi, during which the group submitted a list of 30 demands. The next round of talks is scheduled to be held in April. On February 26, the NSCN-K had conveyed to the GoI that it has no objections to the proposed meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and NSCN-IM ‘general secretary’ Th. Muivah in April, since the talks were “merely a bilateral meeting between two parties and not a political talk between GoI and the Nagas”. However, NSCN-K spokesperson P. Tikhak, on February 28, declared, “We never supported the peace talks nor will we ever support it.” Moreover, after the conclusion of the first meeting of the Supervisors of the Cease Fire Monitoring Board (CFMB), Wangtin Naga, the NSCN-K Cease Fire Monitoring Board Supervisor, insisted, on January 6, 2011, that his group would only talk when all factions come together under one roof.

Evidently, the Naga reconciliation process, initiated by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) in 2009, has run into a rough weather in the wake of the recent turf wars between the rival NSCN groups in eastern Nagaland. The Union Defense Ministry, on March 16, 2011, however, continued to claim that “Violence levels have declined and the inter-factional clashes between NSCN-IM and NSCN-K have reduced.”

The continuing violence in Nagaland is the result of New Delhi’s failure to implement the terms of its cease fire agreements with the NSCN factions, which require their cadres to be restricted within designated camps, and to deposit their arms. If the peace process in the State is to have any hopes of success, and tranquility is to prevail in the region, these terms will have to be imposed on, and accepted by, these armed groups. As long as the NSCN factions – and other militant groupings in the State – continue to build up their armed strength and struggle for military dominance in ‘contested’ areas, there can be little hope of peace for the Naga people.

 

Veronica Khangchian
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

SATP

SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

One thought on “India: The Challenge Of Peace – Analysis

  • Avatar
    June 14, 2011 at 4:45 am
    Permalink

    I believe that Indian intelligence and the Assam Rifles posted out there are well aware of the facts and there is a buzz around public that they are involved with one of the groups, reportedly the K. The situation is so worse that the fractional fights are taking places in broad day light in the markets of the district headquarter of Tirap, Khonsa. the assam rifles camp is only 1.5 kms away and the DC office only a km away from the market places. These NSCN groups are making fun of the entire security and administrative power in place.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.