India: Nagaland Bolsters Security After Deadly Rebel Attack

By Altaf Ahmad
150504-IN-nagaland-620 A cadre with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) stands guard during Naga Independence Day celebrations, Aug. 14, 2104.

Security has been ramped up in Nagaland, one of India’s northeastern states, following an ambush by rebels that killed eight Indian paramilitaries.

The eight troops were mortally wounded Sunday when members of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), one of the rebel groups in the area, reportedly opened fire on a paramilitary convoy transporting water to a local base in Mon district near Chaklangshu, some 400 km (248.5 miles) from the state capital.

One rebel was killed when the security forces returned fire.

The incident marked the third attack by the NSCN-K since early April, when the rebel faction ended a ceasefire it had agreed to with the Indian government 14 months ago. On April 2, three Indian security personnel were killed when their convoy was ambushed in nearby Arunachal Pradesh.

In response, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs recently said it would no longer engage with the NSCN-K in the peace process in Nagaland, which borders Myanmar.

The NSCN-K is a faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, which has been fighting for 35 years to establish a “greater Nagaland” for indigenous Naga tribespeople who inhabit the state as well as neighboring states in India and Myanmar.

The NSCN-K is a more militant faction of the council. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah, (NSCN-IM), a more moderate group, has not engaged in violence for the past several years.

According to the Associated Press, two million Naga people live in the northeastern Indian states of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Indian government has offered the rebels autonomy in exchange for an agreement to end their separatist campaign, but New Delhi refuses to allow the Naga rebels to redraw state lines to accommodate a single state for their people, AP reported.

A faction within a faction

According to security experts, the NSCN-K’s recent decision to end the ceasefire and resume a campaign of violence could have been caused by an ideological split within its own ranks.

“NSCN-K is no longer a homogenous group and there are heterogonous elements in it. If some cadres are willing to go for the peace agreement with the government, the other cadres in it oppose the same,” Uday Sahay, a former Indian policeman who served in the northeastern state of Mizoram, told BenarNews by phone.

“Assam Rifles becomes the main target of this group as the security agency is spearheading the operations and guards the borders in entire northeast, to bring normalcy in the region,” he said, referring to the battalion that came under attack Sunday.

“The NSCN has also got support from insurgents from other neighboring countries, who supply arms and ammunition to them,” he added.

But another expert says the Indian government should try to engage the NSCN-K in talks aimed at ending a stalemate.

“The central government should initiate a meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders, especially the NSCN-K which enjoys popular support in the region. I am confident NSCN-K will respond positively to the government call,” Professor Prasenjit Biswas, an expert on insurgencies in India’s northeast who teaches at North Eastern Hill University in Shilong, told BenarNews.

“NSCN-IM, the rival group of the NSCN-K, is pro-establishment in Nagaland. This is a serious concern for NSCN-K, who feel neglected and resort to such deadly attacks to show their presence,” he added.


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