In a major and unprecedented development, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-Khaplang faction) last night passed unanimous resolution in an emergency meeting and removed their supremo S S Khaplang as the chairman and also expelled him.
The decision was taken after a marathon meeting of the national hoho (national assembly) of the outfit at Khehoi camp near Dimapur in Nagaland where all key militant leaders and armed functionaries including Khaplang’s longtime associates like self-styled General Khole Konyak and Kitovi Zhimomi attended.
The main charges against Khaplang are “dictatorial and remote controlled type of administration”, his decision to remove ‘General Konyak’ as the chief of armed wing of his group and his non-committal approach towards Naga reconciliation.
“Khaplang allegedly not only hampered efforts to bring peace and reconciliation in Naga homeland but also remained non-committal on all the burning issues owing to his self-exiled nature of existence for more than ten years,” intelligence sources said attributing the remarks to a statement from the outfit after the emergency meeting.
The disgruntled NSCN (Khaplang) functionaries have since elected ‘Gen. Khole Konyak’ as the acting chairman. The Khole Konyak cap was not happy with Khaplang’s constant refusal to permit “participation of the group” formally in the reconciliation meetings with other militant groups like NSCN (Isak-Muivah) since September 18th, 2010.
Contrary to the wishes of a formidable section of NSCN(K) functionaries, Khaplang, according to intelligence sources, Khaplang had also refused to meet NSCN (IM) leaders Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu earlier this year when the two leaders visited Nagaland.
The government of India and the intelligence agencies are keeping close eyes on the development as the episode smacks largely of ethnic feuds.
The impeachment and expulsion of Khaplang would essentially mean that the potent militant group NSCN will have now three factions - one headed by Swu and Muivah, another headed by ‘expelled’ Khaplang and the third to be led by Khole Konyak and his associates like Kitovi Zhimomi in the NSCN (K).
The split in NSCN (K) has alerted the security agencies as all such splits in guerilla groups in the northeast is always followed by intense tribal feuds. S S Khaplang, who is originally a Hemi Naga from Myanmar is not a suave operator and prefers to stay ‘underground’ and function from hideouts, holds considerable support among tribes in Mon, Tuensang and Kiphrie regions in Nagaland and also parts of Arunachal Pradesh. He is at present reportedly operating from his camp in Pangmi jungles of Myanmar.
Khaplang had originally distanced himself from Phizo’s Naga movement and was heading a fledgling Eastern Naga Hill Revolutionary Council fighting both Myanmar and Indian army.
He was dragged to ‘Naga movement’ in 1975 after Phizo-led NNC had split. Khaplang along with Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah formed NSCN but the NSCN split in 1988 after bloody clash between the loyalists of Swu and Muivah and Khaplang where in over 300 cadres of different tribes were reportedly killed.
At one point of time in 1990s, NSCN (Khaplang) was alleged to have established strong nexus with former chief minister S C Jamir especially for ‘financial support’ in its warfare against Muivah and Swu’s group. The charge has been, however, denied by Mr Jamir vehemently.
Khaplang's enunciation in Naga movement vis-a-vis Indian government and groups' rivalry only after Shillong Accord of 1975. The bitterness in NNC reached a crescendo, when Muivah and Swu declared that they would not accept any settlement “short of total independence”. Soon the split started surfacing among the lower level functionaries and cadres. Some group clashes were reported providing first signs of major crack in Naga underground and also in the Naga society. Even Phizo was not spared. The indisputable icon of Naga movement was for the first time being pushed to the wall.
I have referred about these in my book 'The Talking Guns: North East India'. "This was the time when Government of India’s sagacious role was put to test. But believing the age-old governance theory, which was popularised during British rule – the Divide and Rule, the officials worked overtime to further DIVIDE the Nagas “to weaken their movement”.
On their part, the pro-Phizo camp was surprised but did not wish to give in before the new upheaval. Fearing some unprecedented actions from the rebels Muivah and Isak Swu, the pro-Phizo group first struck and in a bloodless coup led by “Brigadier” Khule and “Brigadier” Subong Noksyu “arrested” Muivah and Swu in September 1978."
However, with the Nagas involved in internecine killing themselves and New Delhi either oblivious of the developments or were “enjoying” the split, it was for China to “plant and push” a Burmese ethnic Naga Shang Nu Shangwang Khaplang, then coordinator of Eastern Naga Hill Revolutionary Council, to fish out of the troubled water.
Khaplang, otherwise not known as a suave and astute functionary, succeeded in working out reconciliation and “set free” Muivah and Swu in July 1979.
In later years, late flamboyant former Chief Minister Vamuzo had charged Jamir with “maintaining links with NSCN (K) and also assisting it in its warfare against NSCN (IM)”. In fact, there also came a court case that funds from state lottery was pumped into the Khaplang camp at the behest of Jamir.
Jamir has, however, in no uncertain terms denied the charge vehemently including within the state assembly during much repeated debates on the vexed question of politico-underground nexus. Once he told me in an interview for ‘The Nagaland Times’ (Dimapur) and ‘Eastern Panorama (Shillong)’ “I am the most harassed Naga politician …..I have never met Khaplang”.