DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
That New Delhi's ga strategy has flopped became evident this week with the NSCN (K) calling off its 14-year-long ceasefire with the Government and headed for a split. The outfit, led by veteran rebel leader SS Khaplang, took this decision following the actions of two of its senior leaders who have been accused of compromising the stand of the NSCN (K) and the ga cause. While Khaplang wanted to abrogate the truce, the two leaders, Wangtin Konyak and T. Tithak, wanted the ceasefire to be further extended. The truce is to expire on April 28.
The NSCN (K) has been considering calling off the truce for quite sometimes because New Delhi had not begun formal negotiations with the outfit although a ceasefire agreement was signed in 2001. The picture is not clear yet, but the haste with which Wangtin Konyak and T. Tithak, who have since been expelled from the NSCN (K), have decided to form a new rebel group indicates that they have arrived at some sort of an understanding with New Delhi.
This, certainly, is not a welcome development in so far as the ga insurgent politics is concerned and it will make things more difficult for the Government of India in its bid to resolve the ga problem. Formed in 1980, NSCN suffered its first split in 1988 into the NSCN (Isac-Muivah) and NSCN (Khaplang). Then in 2010, the NSCN (K) split into a faction led by Khole Konyak and Kitovi Zhimoni, and now, a new faction under the leadership of Wangtin Konyak and T Tithak is on the cards. If the Government of India or any of its agencies are directly or indirectly behind this division, things are bound to get more complicated because there is already a perception that the Government of India is working at bringing about a divide within the ga rebel groups to weaken their resolve to carry on with the fight for self-determition.
Eighteen years of dialogue with the NSCN (IM), both within and outside India, have not yielded the desired results. Both New Delhi and the NSCN (IM) leadership are either ambiguous or have been deliberately trying to keep the people in the dark about the progress or otherwise of these deliberations. Besides, while grappling with the NSCN (IM), New Delhi has not really bothered to engage with other ga rebel groups and factions, particularly the NSCN (K). This gave an impression that New Delhi was regarding the NSCN (IM) as the sole or principal rebel group representing the gas. That is certainly not the case, because the Khaplang-led NSCN faction also has a considerable influence in several ga areas, particularly those bordering Myanmar. If New Delhi has decided to ignore the NSCN (K) because it had entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar Government, then it would only expose the Government’s lack of foresight.
If the turn of events are any indication, New Delhi is fast entering into an extremely tricky ga insurgent minefield. Efforts by the ga Church and the civil society to first unite the various ga rebel groups and then try and reach one broad settlement with the Government has failed. New Delhi also should be convinced by now that the NSCN (IM) is not the only influential ga rebel group. The battle lines are drawn and the relative calm in the ga Hills may soon disappear. The NSCN (K) put out a small trailer in March when it attacked an army patrol in Manipur’s Tamenglong district where four soldiers were injured. If New Delhi is preparing a strategy of postponing peace, it should reverse the policy right now.