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Khaplang�s demise could be major blow to militancy in NE region

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, June 10 - The death of NSCN(K) chairman SS Khaplang, who was also chairman of the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia, an umbrella platform of militant groups of the region, will be a major blow to militancy in the region as he was like a father figure to all the active ultra outfits.

Highly placed security sources told The Assam Tribune that Khaplang was not just the chairman of the umbrella body of the militant groups of the Northeast region; all the outfits managed to stay and run their bases in Myanmar only because of the NSCN(K) leader, who enjoyed support of Naga villagers on both sides of the international border.

In fact, armed cadres of other outfits, including United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), have to obtain a �command certificate� to pass through the Naga-inhabited villages on both sides of the India-Myanmar international border.

Sources said that militant groups of Northeast started operating together after the umbrella body was formed under the chairmanship of Khaplang and after his death, it remains to be seen whether the outfits would be able to find a leader of his stature who would command respect of all the outfits.

Though the ULFA(I) commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah acted as Khaplang�s deputy in the umbrella body, it is still not certain whether he could command the respect of all the constituents of the body as the ULFA(I) is not the strongest of the outfits at this moment. Moreover, most of the outfits having bases in Myanmar have, so far, been using NSCN(K)�s facilities in that country and without the presence of Khaplang, only time will tell whether such arrangement can continue smoothly.

Security sources said that for Khaplang, being originally a Myanmar national, it was easy for him to arrange for provisions in that area as he commanded huge respect of the people there. He also maintained cordial relation with the local ultra groups of Myanmar, which was of great help not only for the NSCN(K) but also for other outfits of the region.

According to information available with the Indian security agencies, Khaplang also maintained relation with Chinese agencies, which was beneficial for the new umbrella body of the ultra groups.

Sources revealed that after the movement launched by Angami Phizo fizzled out following the creation of Nagaland as a separate State, Khaplang emerged thereafter as a major Naga rebel and he, along with Issak Swu and Th Muivah, formed the NSCN in 1980. In 1988, the NSCN got divided due to infighting and Khaplang started leading the NSCN(K) faction. In fact, the ULFA, after its formation, first made contacts with Khaplang, who facilitated the training of ULFA cadres in Myanmar, sources added.

It may be mentioned here that Khaplang also signed a cease fire agreement with the Government of India in 2001, but in 2015 he broke away from the agreement and formed the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia along with other militant groups of the region, who have bases in Myanmar. Various Naga social organisations tried to persuade Khaplang to come into a cease-fire agreement with the Union government again but he refused to do so.

There have also been reports that there were difference of opinion among the second line leaders of the NSCN(K) and intelligence inputs indicate that after the death of Khaplang, who was the unifying factor, the possibility of the differences between those who are of Myanmar origin and who are from Nagaland cannot be ruled out, sources added.

Meanwhile, ULFA(I) chairman Abhijeet Asom has condoled the death of Khaplang. In a statement, he said, �The Naga nation has lost a true and uncompromising nationalist without equal. In the creation of Western South East Asia geographic identity with an organic soul, giving hope to even the smallest nationality of the region an opportunity to get just political representation amongst the family of nations reflects his deep understanding and vision in keeping with his superb statesmanship. As the chairman of the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia, he brought on affinity amongst the armed cadres in an exemplary level and the united stand is reverberating across the region and beyond since. This grandee of the indigenous citizens of WeSEA will be greatly missed in the vales and hills of the region.�

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