IMPHAL, July 4: Fresh lights have been thrown on the reasons behind SS Khaplang led NSCN(K)`™s decision to abrogate the ceasefire it held with the Government of India since 2001, following the arrests and interrogations of important NSCN(K) leaders, according to reliable intelligence sources.
Many of these confirm earlier held speculations amongst sections of insurgency observers in the Northeast that the Government of India as well as Khaplang were increasingly realising the futility of the ceasefire as there was no meaningful agreement in sight as Khaplang is a Naga from the Myanmar side of the border.
It may be pertinent here to note that though GOI has been extending its ceasefire offer to the NSCN(K), it did not seem at all keen to extend a corresponding peace talks as well.
Interrogations of arrested NSCN(K) leaders, Khumlo Abi Anal and Khekaho Rochill, by the NIA have revealed that Khaplang has been contemplating ending the ceasefire with the GOI for a few years until he finally took the decision to do so on March 27, the sources said.
Khumlo was arrested by the Manipur Police on June 11 and subsequently by the NIA on June 29 upon his release by the Manipur Police, in connection with the June 4 Chandel ambush by a combined team of NSCN(K), KYKL and KCP fighers on a convoy of the 6 Dogras, claiming the lives of 18 soldiers and injuring another 11. Two of the attackers too were killed in the encounter.
Khekaho was arrested from Nagaland earlier on May 26, two month after Khaplang decided to end the ceasefire agreement with GOI on March 27.
Khumlo, the sources said has revealed that he travelled to NSCN(K)`™s general headquarters at Taga and had discussions with Khaplang on the emerging tension between Myanmar Nagas and Indian Nagas, and why they needed to be segregated, obviously in anticipation of bigger trouble.
Khumlo further informed the NIA that it was during his stay at Taga that Khaplang came to the decision of walking out of the ceasefire with GOI, the sources further said.
The arrested NSCN(K) leader also told the NIA that a month earlier in November, in a meeting of top NSCN(K) leaders from Myanmar at Taga, the mood was unanimous that the ceasefire with GOI was doing the organisation`™s image no good and that it should not be allowed to extend beyond April 27, when its yearly extendable term ended. The leaders were of the opinion that abrogation of the ceasefire would help the organisation redeem its importance, the sources also said.
NIA interrogation of Khekaho also corroborated what Khumlo told the investigation agency. Khekaho said he along with other Indian Naga leaders of the NSCN(K), including Nikki Sumi and Isak Sumi were told not to attend the ceasefire supervisory board, CFSB meeting scheduled on March 27. He also informed the NIA that the NSCN(K) was already preparing attacks on Indian security forces ahead of the abrogation of the ceasefire on March 27, the sources said.
Two Indian Nagas, Wangtin and Tikhak defied Khaplang`™s directive and attended the March 27 CFSB meeting, causing another vertical split in the NSCN(K), with the splinter group forming the NSCN(Reformation). The latter continued the ceasefire agreement with the GOI.
Fissures along similar lines broadly marked by the international boundary became visible earlier in 2011, when the first major split in the NSCN(K) happened and senior and influential NSCN(K) leaders of the Indian side, Khole Konyak and Kitovi Sema decided to part ways with Khaplang, the sources added.
It is easy to surmise that these splits in the NSCN(K) were prompted by the sense of futility of continuing with the ceasefire with the GOI considering the slim possibilities of any permanent settlement that can incorporate territories across the international border.
The sources further said the interrogation reports indicated Khaplang has been showing signs of wariness with the ceasefire and had been of the opinion that it should be ended for quite some years, but a section of moderate Indian Nagas, in particular Wangtin and Tikhak had been managing to prevail upon him to hang on each year, until his March 27 abrogation.
Khaplang however still has supporters amongst Indian Nagas, and among them is his military advisor and fund raiser from Nagaland, Nikki Sumi. The sources said Nikki stood with Khaplang in the opinion that abrogation of the ceasefire would increase the prestige of the organisation and put them ahead of other rival groups which have toed the line of the Indian government.
Khaplang also has supporters amongst non Naga groups on the Indian side. Among these are the ULFA faction of Assam led by Paresh Barua and Meitei groups such as UNLF and PLA. His support base extends further amongst more NE insurgent groups under his tutelage and given safe sanctuary in his camps in Myanmar.
These groups also have been pressuring Khaplang to end the ceasefire with GOI. None of these groups also have come to any cessation of hostility agreement with the GOI. In Myanmar all these groups maintain close operational understanding among them and share their resources, the sources further said.
Soon after abrogating the ceasefire with the GOI, NSCN(K) together with three NE insurgent groups, namely ULFA(I), NDFB(S) and KLO formed the United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia, UNLFW under Khaplang`™s leadership, the sources added.
They also said Meitei insurgent groups, by then under a loose federation called the Coordination Committee, or CorCom, were also to join the new platform, but were unable to do so because of some internal differences in the federation. These differences are in the process of being ironed out, the sources further said.
The sources further said that the GOI was for the extension of the ceasefire with NSCN(K) and the MHA had on March 27 formally written to the chairman ceasefire monitoring group, CFMG, to fix a meeting with NSCN(K) at New Delhi on April 27.
Reiterating that it was Khaplang`™s decision alone that resulted in the ceasefire abrogation, the sources said that if it was otherwise, and if Khaplang had any apprehension that the GOI was not keen to continue with the ceasefire, there are redress mechanisms to make this known so that differences could be sorted out. Khaplang used none of these, and instead his cadres fired on the Assam Rifles at Kohima on March 26 injuring four personnel, they said.
The sources cited this as an example to claim that Khaplang`™s ceasefire abrogation was carefully contemplated and not a spurt of the moment decision prompted by any emergency.
Adding to this speculation is that Khaplang all the while was preparing to end hostilities with the Myanmar authorities before abrogating the ceasefire with the GOI.
The NSCN(K) had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Sagaing Division authorities in April 2012. Khaplang`™s territory falls within this province of Myanmar.
This ceasefire could not however be elevated to the national level with the Government of Myanmar because of some differences. All the same, the NSCN(K) signed the `deed of commitment for peace and national reconciliation` with Myanmar in February 2015, a month ahead of Khaplang walking out of the ceasefire agreement with the GOI.
It must however be recalled again here to put things in perspective, that although the GOI was not averse to continuing with the ceasefire agreement with NSCN(K) in perpetuity, it never initiated peace talks with the organisation, unlike in the case of NSCN(K)`™s bitter rivals faction led by Th. Muivah and Isak Swu, the NSCN(IM).
Khaplang`™s disillusionment with the ceasefire with the GOI, as many observers have pointed out, may have been also fuelled by this approach of the GOI.