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Naga Militant Game Plan In Arunachal Pradesh

ARUNACHAL Pradesh may not fall in the ambit of the ongoing Naga peace talks but the manner in which both factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland have transformed the strategic border state’s Tirap and Changlang districts, adjoining Nagaland, into a turf war must cause grave concern. Of late, fratricidal clashes and killings were said to have intensified and there were reports of rampant extortion and abduction. Driven by vested interests, both factions are trying to assert themselves because the two districts together send 12 legislators to the Assembly and play a vital role in the making and unmaking of a government.

Significantly, the NSCN (IM) has demanded the inclusion of both districts in its Greater Nagaland concept. The two districts were declared disturbed several years ago, so what is the state government doing to check this deterioration in law and order?

The latest reports say the Khaplang faction has “directed” legislators of these districts to withdraw support to Dorjee Khandu’s Congress government. What provoked this is not clear, but the NSCN (K) is known to be active in Tirap and Changlang since the early 1980s. The Isak-Muivah faction is a relevant newcomer.

There is, however, no overlooking the fact that both factions have played significant roles in toppling governments. In 1999, when seven ministers belonging to the Nyishi tribe of Changlang and Tirap withdrew support, the builder of modern Arunachal Pradesh, Gegong Apang, lost power, his fall allegedly masterminded by the NSCN (K).

Not to be outdone, the redoubtable Apang returned to power the next year by masterminding the fall of Mukut Mithi’s Congress government, despite its having 59 members in the 60-member assembly. He did this with the tacit support of the BJP, which was then in power at the Centre, and the NSCN (IM). He gave the game away when, days after being sworn in as chief minister, he repealed the Arunachal Pradesh Control of Organized Crimes Act 2002, enacted by the Mithi government, describing it as draconian and also visited Tirap and Changlang, which many believed was to thank the NSCN (IM) for its support.

Apang quit the Congress in 1996 following differences with the Centre over the Chakma and Hajong refugee issue, vowing never to return to the party. The Nehru government had settled the refugees in Arunachal Pradesh (then known as the North East Frontier Agency) in 1964 on humanitarian grounds. Apang’s name was synonymous with development and he enjoyed power and prestige for nearly two decades. Not one to miss a trick, he returned to the Congress fold before the 2004 Assembly elections after having run a government with BJP support.

In Nagaland, people are disappointed and frustrated over the two groups’ U-turn on reconciliation and unity. Little wonder then that in a hard-hitting open letter to them, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation said, “In the face of the Naga people no amount of justification can legitimize the outbreak of factional violence… not only have these acts of violence broken the pledge you made in the Covenant of Reconciliation, but it has also made (the) Naga people question your earnestness and integrity.”

Hopefully, the Naga rebel leaders, most of whom are past their 70s, will not allow the peace process to end in tragedy.

(Courtesy: The Statesman, India)

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