Veteran separatist Naga leader Khango Konyak will take over as the new chief of Myanmar-based National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) following the demise of SS Khaplang, a source close to the outfit said on Saturday. However, no official announcement has been made from the NSCN-K yet on the appointment of a new chairman. Khaplang, 77, died at the NSCN-K Council Headquarters in Taga in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division on Friday night.
The central government had in November 2015 declared the NSCN-K, all its formations and front organisations as terrorist organisations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Konyak, who held the rank of Lieutenant General in the Naga Army — the armed wing of the NSCN-K, was elected as Vice Chairman of NSCN-K in May 2011. He had undergone guerrilla warfare training in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and in China. Apart from military services, Konyak had held the post of Chairman, Konyak Region, and president of the Tuensang-Mon Regional Union.
Meanwhile, NSCN-IM General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and ULFA-I Chairman Abhizeet Asom have condoled the death of Khaplang. In his condolence message, Muivah said: “Based on the declaration made by our Chairman late Isak Chisi Swu on the forgiveness and reconciliation, we have forgiven S.S. Khaplang of all the political mistakes and crimes he had committed, how grave they might be.”
“The Naga Nation has lost a true and uncompromising Nationalist,” Asom said, adding that as the Chairman of the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia, Khaplang brought about a rare affinity amongst the armed cadres and the united stand had been reverberating across the region and beyond ever since”.
Khaplang started the Naga armed struggle in the early 1960s by forming the Naga Defence Force after Zapu A.Z. Phizo declared war on India. Later, he became Vice Chairman of the Eastern Naga Revolutionary Council. Khaplang was instrumental in paving the way for the Phizo-led Naga National Council rebels, including his former friend-turned-rival Thuingaleng Muivah, to reach China for guerrilla warfare training.
After the failure of the Shillong Accord signed between the Centre and Phizo’s Naga National Council in 1975, Khaplang and Muivah went underground. The two Naga rebel leaders, along with Isak Chishi Swu, formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in 1980.
However, the group split in 1988, with Khaplang parting ways with Swu and Muivah due to clan rivalries between the Konyaks of Nagaland’s Mon district and the Tangkhuls of Manipur’s Ukhrul district. Swu died in June 2016 in a Delhi hospital. Khaplang also entered into a ceasefire with the central government in 1997 but abrogated it on March 28, 2015.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had filed a chargesheet against Khaplang and announced a reward of Rs 7 lakh on him and even sent a detailed dossier on him to Myanmar through diplomatic channels.