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By The Editorial Team Updated: Jun 12, 2017 12:51 am

The dead of SS Khaplang the Chairman of NSCN(K), the letter ‘K’ being attributed to his name, marks the end of one of the most powerful leaders among the NSCNs who was also sometimes quite unpredictable. He was also one of the founding members when the NSCN was formed in 1980 at a time when the then NNC/FGN was going through immense rivalry based on ideology and other factors from without. Late Isak Swu and Th. Muivah had to seek the support of SS Khaplang, who was then the most powerful and influential leader who had almost attained the stature of a warlord among the Nagas of Burma. Till his death he kept his stronghold beyond the reach of the Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw.

In his passing a new twist might arise to the never ending Naga conundrum since the history of the NSCN is replete with splits. Moreover, with most of his senior advisers from the Indian side leaving him, his group’s influence in this side of the border might weaken. The one major misunderstanding that always cropped up is due to the spread of the Naga areas under two nations, India and Myanmar and with very close proximity to China. The first major fallout happened in 1988 when Khaplang and Khole led an attack against Isak and Muivah with the latter two narrowly escaping the raid leading to the formation of two groups; the NSCN(IM) and the NSCN(K). Though the inter-tribe rivalries existed and the rift might have been serious, the official stand of Khaplang was that Isak and Muivah unilaterally wanted to make a deal with the government of India without him and the other Nagas in Burma. This led to very intensive turf wars between the two groups that even spread to the Indian side in the early nineties. At one point of time, the NSCN(K) was the strongest group in Nagaland and also later maintained a unilateral ceasefire with the Indian Security Forces that was later made into a mutual agreement in 2001. The next split came in 2011 when his long time adviser who had attained the post of General Secretary, Kitovi Zhimomi along with his former chief of army Khole Konyak parted ways with him with an intention to start dialogue with the government of India. The final split happened when his group unilaterally abrogated the 14 year old ceasefire agreement with the government of India in 2015. That decision made his former aide and supervisor of ceasefire supervisory board, Wangtin Naga and another former close aide P. Tikhak to form the NSCN(Reformation) .

However, being a leader who was considered quite elusive with very little presence in the Indian side of the border, his true nature and intent was never known to the public except through the words of those who were closely associated with him over the years. In a rare interview with a journalist from India that was published in the Telegraph newspaper from Kolkata in 2003 he remarked that his group’s campaign against NSCN(IM) should not be considered as one against the Tangkhuls. He instead referred to his former comrade Th. Muivah as a real man. ‘Muivah to mota ase’ and in that interview he showed signs of wanting to bury the hatchet. After almost seven years in 2010, Th. Muivah also hinted at wanting to meet him and Khole and reconcile, but not the others. The efforts for a peace meet that was eagerly awaited by the Naga people also unfortunately failed by events and forces that the Naga public is still does not fully understand, except for various allegations and counter-allegations by various groups. However it is certain that he being a Hemi Naga from Myanmar he could never discard the interests of the people from his side of the border that led to so many misunderstandings with his more educated close aides and advisers from the Indian side of the border. His passing will surely create a vacuum in his organisation unless there is a strong successor from amongst the Nagas of Myanmar but on the other hand it might just be an easier diplomatic win for the government of India in resolving the Naga political issue once and for all at least in India.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Jun 12, 2017 12:51:48 am