NEW DELHI, June 28 - In a blow to the NSCN(I-M), its co-founder Isak Chisi Swu passed away at the Fortis Hospital in south Delhi at 12.40 pm today following protracted illness.
The 85-year-old chairman of the Naga outfit was admitted to the hospital on July 5 last year following �severe kidney ailments and urinary tract infection�.
It is believed that because of his prolonged illness, the Centre had, in August last year, decided to sign the framework agreement in relative haste in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The draft agreement, aimed at ushering in peace by ending the decades-long Naga insurgency problem, was hailed by the Prime Minister as �historic�.
NSCN(I-M) general secretary Th Muivah and former Nagaland Chief Minister and Lok Sabha MP Neiphiu Rio were among those who visited the hospital to offer their condolences.
Later, Muivah, when asked about the status of the peace process, said that it is in progress and the Government of India is serious about taking it to a logical conclusion. �We are committed and hopeful. The passing away of our chairman is a shock for us, but this is inevitable in life,� Muivah said.
Swu, who belonged to the Sumi tribe, leaves behind his wife Khulu, five sons and a daughter. He is likely to be flown to his native State tomorrow for cremation.
Replying to questions about the likely place of burial, Muivah said, �People of the entire Nagaland would be waiting for him; so we�ll have to respect their wishes.�
Born in 1929, Swu was the son of Kushe Chisi Swu of the Chishilimi village, a Sema (Sumi) village in the Zunheboto district of Nagaland.
He did his early education at the American Mission School at Chishilimi and then studied at the Govt High School, Kohima. He graduated from St Anthony�s College, Shillong, with Honours in Political Science.
Swu went underground in the late 1950s and served as the self-styled foreign secretary of the Naga National Council (NNC), a political organisation of the Naga people which was active from the late 1940s to the early 1950s. Under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo in the 1940s, it unsuccessfully campaigned for the secession of the Naga territory from India and creation for a sovereign Naga State, after he became the foreign secretary. He was later elevated to the post of the vice president of the NNC.
Swu, Muivah and SS Khaplang were behind the formation of the NSCN on January 31, 1980, opposing the Shillong Accord signed by the NNC with the Government of India.
Later, following a disagreement, the group split into two factions � the NSCN(I-M) led by Swu and Muivah, and NSCN(K) led by Khaplang. Since then, fratricidal killings caused by the factional rivalry between them kept Nagaland on the boil for years.
What is stated to be a fulfilment of Swu�s last wish, the draft framework pact was signed by Muivah and government interlocutor RN Ravi under the guidance of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, at the PM�s residence last year.
The signing of the pact came after over 80 rounds of negotiations spanning 16 years, with the first breakthrough being made in 1997 in the form of a ceasefire agreement.
Recently, the Centre denied reports of having agreed to a proposal of NSCN(I-M) of granting separate passports and flag for Nagas, clarifying that the peace talks with the outfit were still continuing.