Nagaland in turmoil as NSCN factions clash

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS

Kohima : Nagaland's two separatist groups may be observing a ceasefire with the Indian government but they are locked in fratricidal clashes, increasingly turning the state into a lawless region.

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Attacks between armed rebels of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and the rival group led by S.S. Khaplang (NSCN-K) have increased in recent months.

The authorities are clearly unable to cool the tempers.

From rocket launchers to mortars, grenades and AK-47 assault rifles, the factions openly use these weapons against each other under the very nose of the security forces.

Both the NSCN factions are operating a ceasefire with New Delhi. The NSCN-IM is holding peace talks after entering into a truce in 1997. The NSCN-K is yet to begin formal talks with New Delhi though it signed a ceasefire with the central government in 2001.

The two factions are fighting it out for territorial supremacy. At least 200 cadres have been killed in the past five years.

"We all are very concerned and the voice of the people is that killing is not the solution and violence cannot be a means to settle any differences. The need of the hour is to stop all forms of violence and work towards peace," N. Krome, president of the Naga Hoho, the apex Naga tribal council, told IANS.

The latest in the series of clashes took place in Tizit area of Mon district when the two groups fought in broad daylight – firing gunshots, lobbing grenades and firing mortars and rockets. At least two people were killed and many more injured in the Thursday incident.

Such was the intensity of the attack that civilians were forced to flee their homes. The security forces failed to take any action.

District authorities in Mon and police officials in capital Kohima refused to comment on record.

"The Assam Rifles has been collaborating with the Khaplang group by providing it arms, ammunition, transport and other logistical support to target us," said R.H. Raising, an NSCN-IM leader, referring to the Tizit incident.

The NSCN-K denies the allegations.

"The NSCN-IM is a gang of terrorists and has been openly violating the ceasefire ground rules," an NSCN-K leader said.

But in reality the ceasefire ground rules hardly seem to exist.

"There are lots of pulls and pressures. Despite knowing that the two NSCN factions are not allowed to move freely with arms under the ceasefire agreement, they flaunt weapons and carry out attacks," a Nagaland police officer said.

The peace talks between the NSCN-IM and New Delhi have been deadlocked with no signs of any solution. "We are committed to the peace process," Raising said.