India: Naga rebels divided over peace deal

India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sept. 3 announced a Rs 7 lakh (approx. $10,500) bounty on Naga insurgent leader SS Khaplang in connection with an attack on an army convoy in Manipur three months ago that killed 18 soldiers. The 75-year-old rebel heads the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), that has long waged an armed struggle for an independent Naga homeland uniting parts of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam states along with areas of Burma. In early August, India's central government signed a peace agreement with the rival NSCN-IM (Isak-Muivah, named for leaders Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah). But the Khaplang faction is not yet recognizing the accord, and the bounty appears to signal Delhi's impatience—or a strategy to keep the Naga struggle divided.

The Naga insurgency is India's longest-standing internal war, dating to shortly after independence in 1947. Delhi signed a pact with the NSCN-IM agreeing to a peace deal in 1997, but took 18 years to finally reach binding terms. These terms have not yet been released, but are presumed to cede greater autonomy to the Naga areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the agreement "historic," and said: "I have the deepest admiration for the great Naga people for their extraordinary support to the peace efforts." Rosemary Dzivichu a leader of the Naga Mothers Association (NMA), who met with NSCN-K leaders at their camps in Burma, said: "The NSCN-K leadership told us that it neither opposes nor supports the Naga Peace Accord but would wait to see what comes out of it and accordingly decide the next course of action." (Hindustan Times, Sept. 11; Jurist, Aug. 4)