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Home > News > Report

Naga leaders returning home after 37 years

G Vinayak in Guwahati | December 08, 2004 17:06 IST
Last Updated: December 08, 2004 17:09 IST

It is going to be an official homecoming to Nagaland for Thuingaleng Muivah and Issac Chisi Swu after nearly three decades. The two top leaders of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim had left the state in 1975 or thereabouts and have not returned since, except for a brief sojourn in 1999 under an unofficial arrangement.

Thuingaleng Muivah and Issac Chisi Swu with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil in New Delhi

Swu and Muivah, who head unarguably the most powerful rebel army in the north-east, had formed the NSCN in 1980 along with SS Khaplang, a Burmese Hemi Naga, to oppose the 1975 Shillong Accord between the Naga National Council and the Government of India.

Later, differences surfaced within the outfit over the issue of commencing a dialogue with the Indian government and on April 30, 1988, the NSCN split into two factions, namely the NSCN-K led by S S Khaplang, and the NSCN-IM, led by Swu and Muivah. In the violent clashes between the two groups, over 100 people on both sides were killed. Since then, the NSCN (IM) faction has grown both in stature and strength.

Muivah, a Tangkhul Naga from Manipur's Ukhrul district, is a legendary figure in the underground movements of the north-east. He, as a member of the NNC, the forerunner of the NSCN, had trekked to China and back to the hills of Nagaland through one of the toughest terrains in the world in the early 1960s to establish links with the Chinese authorities and seek their help in liberating the Naga homeland from India's control.

Most of the top leadership of the NSCN (IM) comprises of the Tangkhuls, who mainly live in the Ukhrul district of Manipur. Swu, a Sema tribal, is more of a ceremonial head of the organisation dominated by the Tangkhuls.

The outfit has been in a ceasefire mode with the Government of India since 1997, but despite the truce very little progress has been made on substantive issues that involve territorial adjustments in the volatile north-east.

The outfit's stated aim is to establish a 'Greater Nagaland' ('Nagalim' or the People's Republic of Nagaland) based on Mao Tse Tung's ideology. Its manifesto is based on the principle of socialism for economic development and a spiritual outlook – 'Nagaland for Christ'.

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The outfit has also established a government-in-exile, called the Government of the People's Republic of Nagaland, which interacts with formal and non-formal world bodies and media. The GPRN sends emissaries abroad to garner support and raise funds for the Naga cause. It has an estimated 4,500 strong cadre base and is supported by a section of Aos, Semas, Zeilangs, Anals, Maos and Manipur-based Tangkhul Nagas.

Swu and Muivah are expected to reach Nagaland's commercial capital, Dimapur, early next week and are likely to spend a couple of weeks in Nagaland conferring with various groups and members of the civil society.

After the NSCN leaders return to Delhi from their stay in Nagaland, the real negotiations with the Union government will begin. NSCN spokesman have acknowledged that substantive issues are yet to be discussed. Among the most contentious issues is the NSCN demand for integration of all Naga inhabited areas spread all over the north-east.

In June 2001, when the previous National Democratic Alliance government announced an extension of the ceasefire to all Naga-inhabited areas in the north-east, the Meites, who are opposed to any territorial redrawing of maps, erupted in anger.

Muivah and Swu maintain that they are not demanding greater or lesser Nagaland; all that they are asking for is to bring all Naga homelands under one unit. The problem is, these areas are spread over geographical territories of Manipur, Assam and Nagaland in India and parts of western Myanmar.

One NSCN (IM) leader talking to this reporter last year had said: "What is wrong if the Nagas want to live as one people under one entity?" . He had added that the Nagas are not demanding an inch of land which is not theirs and that just because Jawaharlal Nehru, and prior to him the Britishers, had divided the Nagas, it did not mean that the Nagas have to live as a divided race.

Clearly, despite the hype and hoopla over Swu and Muivah's meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil, the ground situation is far from conducive to a solution to the Naga issue.

Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images


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