The NSCN faction led by SS Khaplang is perhaps the most talked about NE rebel group in recent days, more so after the outfit took responsibility for the ambush that killed 18 army personnel in Manipur and the purported strike by Indian army reportedly inside Myanmar two days back. Khaplang, a Myanmarese by birth, has abrogated the fourteen-year old ceasefire, which, experts say, could unleash a fresh wave of violence in the region. The rebel leader is also the prime mover in floating a joint front of NE rebel groups christened ‘United tiol Liberation Front of West South East Asia’ of which he is the chairman.
The 74-year-old rebel leader spoke to jourlist Azizur Rahman Saikia over phone three weeks ago. Excerpts of the interview:
ARS: What is the basis of your struggle?
S. S. Khaplang: The ga tribes have always been independent. But in course of time, galand was forcibly integrated with India. Therefore it is our struggle to re-establish our independence.
ARS: Isn’t there an altertive to armed struggle?
S. S. Khaplang: It is not so. It is we who have taken to armed struggle. Several are furthering the cause of re-establishing our independence without arms. Actually, after a long course of struggle, we have come to realize that the country of India does not understand the language of ‘nonviolent resistance’. This ultimately calls for the need for armed struggle.
ARS: Is it not possible to reside within India by improving the existing system for overall development of the ga tribes?
S. S. Khaplang: We cannot think of it in the present context. In reality, residing within India would mean wearing shackles all life long and being exploited till death.
ARS: What is your take on ULFA (I)’s demand for sovereignty?
S. S. Khaplang: We welcome ULFA (I)’s demand for a sovereign Assam. It was never a part of so-called India. It was forcibly made a part of India. We have given full support and help to ULFA (I)’s ongoing struggle.
ARS: In the Northeast, active armed groups are separately pressing for sovereignty. In such a situation, if the Northeast mages to drift away from India, will it then give rise to small independent states?
S. S. Khaplang: Yes! Each state shall be independent but each one of us shall work as a single, united tion at the intertiol level. It means that even though the states will appear independent, we shall function collectively like one tion, and remain associated.
ARS: In case of a sovereign galim and Assam, don’t you think, the issue of border demarcation will resurface?
S. S. Khaplang: No! Not at all. Because for us, brotherhood and neighborly relations are more important than geographical boundaries.
ARS: Recently, news about regrouping of armed groups of the Northeast was reported in the media…
S. S. Khaplang: This is not anything new. We have been working in association for long.
ARS: So, a new umbrella organization has been formed?
S. S. Khaplang: Yes! This is true. For the ease of magement, groups with similar ideologies have come together….will not be able to share much on this right now.
ARS: Several armed groups of the Northeast have for long been struggling for sovereignty, but have failed to succeed…
S. S. Khaplang: This is because the issue is being seen from one viewpoint. Though few, there are examples of successful armed struggle in the Northeast. No doubt, these are temporary benefits, but very soon we will achieve an exemplary result. Prolonged experience has given us strength to proceed rapidly and systematically.
ARS: The armed groups of Northeast appear devoid of any overground organizations…
S. S. Khaplang: It is not mandatory that there must be overground organizations. Groups with identical demands and ideologies are struggling and giving their best.
* The K factor in NSCN
NSCN (SS Khaplang) split ways in 1988 on the issue of sovereignty and has since been unconditiolly up in arms across transtiol boundaries for ‘galim’ (People’s Republic of galand). The faction entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Union Government in 2001. However, on April 28, 2015, the outfit abrogated the ceasefire agreement.
On April 17, 2015, armed groups operating across transtiol boundaries comprising the NSCN (K) at the prime along with ULFA (I), NDFB (S), PLA and KLO formed the United tiol Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW), an umbrella outfit with an attempt to struggle unitedly to “liberate their ancestral lands”.