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Public resistance to NSCN growing in northeast India

From a Nagaland tribal union’s decision to not pay ‘tax’ to Arunachal Pradesh villagers thrashing its members, the Yung Aung faction appears to be losing local support

The only faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) out of the peace process with New Delhi appears to be losing local support in the northeast.

On May 16, people in Arunachal Pradesh’s Longding district thrashed four members of the NSCN (Khaplang-Yung Aung), forcing them to release a villager they had kept hostage in Maihwa village. Two of the NSCN (K-YA) men were later handed over to the security forces.

Miles to the east in Nagaland’s Mon district, the Konyak Union had on May 12 reaffirmed its decision to not pay “tax” to any group unless they unite for the Naga cause. It was a politically correct way of defying the NSCN (K-YA), the most active of the NSCN groups in the district bordering Myanmar.

A couple of days ago, public pressure made the outfit release two local labourers its members had abducted in Arunachal Pradesh for reasons not specified.

Fighters from the Konyak community in Nagaland and the Wanchos of Arunachal Pradesh once largely comprised the “Indian” Nagas in the NSCN (Khaplang) group based out of at least five camps — Haukyat, Khanmoi, Lohan, Kamai and Pangsau — in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division.

According to the security forces operating along the Myanmar border, there are about 60 Konyaks and Wanchos left in the NSCN (K-YA) that has about 350 cadres and 150 firearms. The outfit has been losing the Nagas from the Indian side of the border since two top guns from Nagaland — Khango Konyak and Niki Sumi — quit to join the peace process.

At least nine members of the outfit from southern Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland have surrendered since 2020 while more than 90 have been caught since 2019 following a tip-off from local people in several cases.

Restricted in Myanmar

The NSCN was formed in 1980 but split into two groups in 1988, one led by the Myanmar-based S.S. Khaplang and the other by Isak Chishi Swu of Nagaland and Thuingaleng Muivah of Manipur that called itself NSCN (I-M).

More than 50 Naga communities inhabit areas on either side of the India-Myanmar border. The NSCN (K) had Nagas from both countries in almost equal measure.

The NSCN (I-M) declared a ceasefire with the Indian Armed Forces in 1997. The NSCN (K) followed suit in 2001 but walked out of the ceasefire in March 2015.

Since 2001, the NSCN (K) kept splitting into factions but the core group remained united until Khaplang’s death in June 2017 triggered a power struggle within the outfit in Myanmar. The tussle within became stronger when Khaplang’s nephew Yung Aung, born in Manipur, “impeached” his uncle’s successor Khango Konyak a few months later.

“The K-YA bases are geographically away from population centres in Myanmar. But the military coup has restricted their movement in that country. They have thus increased their activities on the Indian side, which the local people are beginning to resist after decades of doing their bidding,” an officer of a security force privy to the operations in Arunachal Pradesh said.

The deteriorating conditions in the camps shared by members of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) have also been a factor in a few members escaping to return to India and surrender, officials said. One such member who gave himself up in Nagaland’s Mon was Sumit Chutia of ULFA (I).

“Many of us have run away because we were not getting our basic minimum needs. We were also not getting the salary promised apart from a paltry ₹4,000 occasionally,” he said.

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