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Peace process hits roadblock: govt bans Naga insurgent group NSCN (K)

Suhas Munshi | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 4:37 IST

The action

  • The Union Home Ministry has banned Naga group NSCN (K)
  • It says this group\'s \'violent activities\' have gone on in spite of the peace process with other groups
  • The Khaplang group was behind the ambush of 18 Armymen on 4 June

The reaction

  • Experts on the insurgency feel this move may turn out to be counter-productive
  • Naga civil society may end up sympathising with the Myanmar-based NSCN (K)
  • Govt-appointed interlocutor RN Ravi is understood to have raised objections to the move

The Home Ministry on 16 September effectively declared war on the NSCN (Khaplang) by banning it for five years. The Naga militant outfit now joins the list of 36 other banned militant organisations in India, including Babbar Khalsa International, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

The government will now act against NSCN (K) cadres under the stringent anti-terrorism Unlawful Activities (Prevention), Act.

Continuing violence

The reason for this, according the ministry's declaration, is "continued hostility and violence on the part of the NSCN (K) against the Indian security personnel, from their bases in Myanmar."

While the government was ready to work on a peace framework with other insurgent groups like NSCN (Reformation) and NSCN (IM), it said the faction headed by Khaplang had carried out at least six 'violent activities', including the 4 June ambush in which 18 Indian Army soldiers were killed.

The government had already made its intentions of dealing with the Khaplang faction clear when it announced bounties on the heads of NSCN (K) chief SS Khaplang and the group's military commander Niki Sumi five days ago.

Naga society's reaction key

So how does the fight with NSCN (K) change after the ban?

Those who have observed Naga insurgency over the past several decades say that while the government's stance against the militant group is reasonable, reactions from other quarters of the region will have to be seen.

"The Khaplang faction doesn't have any interest in talking to India. For Khaplang, he would not want to let go of the areas he controls, which he uses for arms dealing. Besides, his organisation is based out of Myanmar. Why would India also talk to them? Would we talk to a militant organisation based out of Islamabad or Lahore?" said Deepak Dewan, editor of the North East Sun.

The govt has accused the Khaplang faction of six 'violent activities', including the 4 June ambush

However, what remains to be seen is the reaction of Naga civil society.

A delegation of Nagaland legislators had recently gone to Myanmar, with the government's consent, to persuade Khaplang to come to the negotiating table. It wanted to persuade Khaplang's faction to resume the 2001 ceasefire, which was abrogated in March this year.

"The Naga civil society wanted peace and a ceasefire with the Khaplang group. So we will have to see if they're happy or disappointed with today's development," Dewan said.

Ban may be counter-productive

Naga civil society members may not be alone in feeling unhappy about the ban on NSCN (K), which finishes off all chances of peace talks.

The government-appointed interlocutor, RN Ravi, is understood to have been a long-time advocate of continuing peace talks with the Khaplang faction. According to sources, Ravi had opposed the Home Ministry's decision during consultations on the matter.

This is because some believe that banning the militant organisations may actually turn out to be counter-productive in the long run.

"What happened when we banned SIMI? Their organisation went underground, they gained some sympathisers and a lot of their associates arrested under UAPA walked out of jail after some time anyway," a home ministry source told Catch.

Others believe that the inclusion of the Khaplang group in the list of banned organisations could also be an empty symbolic gesture, unless the government shows some real intent in tackling NSCN (K).

Former Union home secretary K Padmanabhaiah, who once was the principal negotiator in the Naga peace talks, said the government will have to do more than just ban the group.

"There's no meaning in banning the group unless the government really means business. It will have to find and cut down the sources of Khaplang's funding. They will have to find ways of disarming them. Banning the organisation in itself doesn't make any difference. We will also have to see if Myanmar is ready to cooperate with India on this, since Khaplang is based out of their country," he said.

First published: 16 September 2015, 11:44 IST
Suhas Munshi @suhasmunshi

He hasn't been to journalism school, as evident by his refusal to end articles with 'ENDS' or 'EOM'. Principal correspondent at Catch, Suhas studied engineering and wrote code for a living before moving to writing mystery-shrouded-pall-of-gloom crime stories. On being accepted as an intern at Livemint in 2010, he etched PRESS onto his scooter. Some more bylines followed in Hindustan Times, Times of India and Mail Today.