Naga ceasefire

Published : May 21, 2004 00:00 IST

THE Centre's decision to extend the ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Khaplang) by another year with effect from April 28 has come as a boost to the efforts of the Neiphiu Rio-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government for a reconciliation between the two warring Naga rebel groups - one led by Myanmar-based S.S. Khaplang and the rival faction led by Isaac Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah.

Although this is not the first time that the ceasefire with NSCN (K) group has been extended, the decision would give more time to the consultative committee on peace headed by former Deputy Chief Minister of Nagaland, I. K. Sema, that was constituted by the DAN government to bring the both the factions on a common platform. The DAN government moved in after efforts by the Reconciliation Commission formed under the aegis of the church and elders of the civil society collapsed. Neiphiu Rio has adopted the policy of "equi-closeness" aimed at bringing all sections of Naga people together and finding a permanent solution to the long-standing political problem.

The decision to extend the ceasefire was taken after discussions that lasted for three days from April 23 between senior officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs and a delegation of the NSCN(K) leaders in New Delhi. The NSCN(K) expressed its keenness to continue the peace process and the ceasefire. The NSCN (K) signed the first ceasefire agreement with New Delhi on April 29, 2001.

Although the NSCN (I-M) has held several rounds of talks with the Centre, the NSCN(K) is yet to respond to the Centre's invitation for formal peace talks even though it had not opposed the extension of the ceasefire for the third time. The outfit is expected to take a decision on holding political talks with the Centre after a series of "introspective" meetings beginning on May 15 involving various public organisations.

THE NSCN is an offshoot of the Naga National Council (NNC), which was formed by the founder of the Naga movement, Angami Zapfu Phizo. The NNC split after the 1975 Shillong Accord, while Isaac-Muivah and Khaplang parted ways in 1988. The NSCN(K) has been regrouping in Mon and Tuensang districts of Nagaland and adjacent Myanmar after a series of setbacks, including the mob attacks on its bases in Mokokchung town on August 24 last year.

Khaplang had expressed his willingness to sort out his differences with the NSCN (I-M) and the latter recently condemned the Myanmar junta's offensive against the Khaplang group, raising hopes of reconciliation between the two groups. Accusing the Indian Army of complementing the offensive by Myanmar against the NSCN (K), the Isaac-Muivah group said that it could have an adverse effect on the peace process in Nagaland.

Apart from boosting the reconciliation efforts, the extension of the ceasefire is also expected to ensure maintenance of peace and tranquillity in Nagaland and reduce the concerns of the security forces. The Centre had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the NSCN (I-M) in 1997.

However, for Major-General R.V. Kulkarni, who heads the Ceasefire Monitoring Board that has representatives of the NSCN(K), the worry of ensuring the group's adherence to the ground rules is not over. Violation of the rules would render the ceasefire meaningless.

Sushanta Talukdar
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