NSCN-IM leader Swu flees India, rivals blame internal conflict

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS

Guwahati : Top Naga separatist leader Isak Chishi Swu has sneaked out of India, triggering speculation that all is not well within the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and that their ceasefire with the Indian government is in jeopardy.

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The 75-year-old Swu, chairman of the NSCN-IM, is believed to have entered Bangladesh through the Dawki border in Meghalaya about six-seven days ago. Swu, who lived in self-imposed exile for the last 38 years in some South Asian cities, arrived in India last December and since then was staying at Camp Hebron, the headquarters of the NSCN-IM near Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland.

“I have nothing to say except for the fact that Swu has left India for some personal reasons. It would, however, be wrong to say that Swu has run away or fled,” R.H. Raising, a senior NSCN-IM leader, told IANS by telephone.

Raising refused to elaborate where exactly Swu had gone, although intelligence officials claimed the NSCN-IM leader had crossed over to Bangladesh en route to either Amsterdam or Bangkok.

The group’s general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, who like Swu lived in self-imposed exile for the last 38 years, is in Camp Hebron since December. The NSCN-IM, led by guerrilla leaders Swu and Muivah, had entered into a ceasefire with the Indian government in August 1997.

The rival NSCN faction headed by S.S. Khaplang, however, said Swu had fled Camp Hebron following serious differences within the group.

“There is a major internal conflict within the NSCN-IM and so Swu had to flee. We have information that even Muivah will flee India very soon,” said K. Mulatonu, a top leader of the NSCN-K.

The NSCN-IM denies the allegations. “There are no problems at all. Why should Swu flee? There is no reason to do so and our leaders are at the forefront of the struggle,” Raising said.

The ceasefire is under a cloud with the NSCN-IM accusing New Delhi of not doing enough to cement the peace process.

Since 1997, the two sides have held at least 50 rounds of peace talks aimed at ending one of South Asia’s longest running insurgencies that has claimed an estimated 25,000 lives since India attained independence in 1947.

“We are trying for a tangible solution to the Naga problem and we are hoping for the best,” the NSCN-IM leader said.

The two sides are meeting for fresh talks in New Delhi Wednesday with central minister Oscar Fernandes and New Delhi’s chief peace negotiator K. Padmanabhaiah leading the government side and Muivah heading the rebel delegation.

“Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. There is nothing to be worried as this is part of our revolutionary struggle,” Raising said when asked about reports of the ceasefire being under strain.