Truce under stress
THE OBVIOUS CASUALTY OF THE MISCHIEF BY NSCN(IM) CADRES IS THE PRESTIGE OF AN OUTFIT THAT IS CONSIDERED TO BE DISCIPLINED AND
COMMITTED, SAYS JB LAMA
A recent misdemeanour by some NSCN(IM) cadres, known as national workers, put the leadership in a tizzy. According to press reports, four cadres “waylaid” two women missionaries (from Arunachal Pradesh) in the wee hours of 21 December near Zunheboto and allegedly tried to molest/rape them. They also assaulted six passengers and the driver of the vehicle in which they were travelling.
When the local Sumis demanded the culprits be handed over to the district administration, the outfit refused, following which an irate crowd staged a rally and called for non-cooperation with the outfit. The NSCN(IM) claimed it had its own government and would deal with the recalcitrants accordingly. Later, the Sumis laid a three-day siege on the NSCN(IM) designated camp at Mukalimi, torched it and put its inmates to flight, in the process losing two of their volunteers.
The NSCN(IM), however, had a different take. It claimed its cadres vacated the camp “conditionally” and that “there was no victory on the other side”. In a press note it said its military tribunal council concluded that the court-martial proceeding found “sergeant” Mapam Keishing guilty and “deserved fit for capital punishment”, adding that under the same count “corporal” Mahori and “private” Ninoto were also found guilty and their services terminated with immediate effect.
This is not the first time NSCN(IM) cadres, bound as they are by ceasefire ground rules, have behaved as if they are a law unto themselves. The Zunheboto incident evoked spontaneous protests because it took place in a Sumi area — once the NSCN(IM) leadership had banned the Sumi Hoho after a split in the outfit but during general secretary Th Muivah&’s visit to the area in 2010, it was rescinded.
Manipur (not bound by the Nagaland ceasefire) witnessed two incidents of overzealous NSCN(IM) cadres riding roughshod over others. In February 2009, Th Kishan Singh, subdivisional officer of Manipur&’s Ukhrul district, two of his office staff and three others were abducted at gunpoint. Four days later, the bodies of three — all Meiteis — were found abandoned near a Kuki village on the Imphal-Dimapur road, to leave the impression that the crime had been committed by locals. The other three were apparently spared because they were tribals. The NSCN(M) expressed regret after its officer, “Lt- Col” H Ningshen owned up to the murder “done with the motive as dictated by his own conscience and remotely connected with the NSCN(IM) official directive, the ground reality being handled in the manner it deserved”. A few days later, the verdict was announced. It said “the general court martial of the NSCN(IM) was satisfied to terminate the services of Lt-Col Ningshen and he would undergo imprisonment for seven years”.
In 2011, an NSCN(IM) officer allegedly mishandled a Meitei film actress while she was performing on stage to raise funds for a local organisation in Naga-dominated Chandel district of Manipur. The obvious casualty of all this being the prestige of an outfit considered the most disciplined and committed. Whether any action was taken against him is not known.
The more than 16-year-old Nagaland ceasefire has been under stress on several occasions. The ground rules prohibit cadres from roaming about in uniform and collecting “taxes” and they are required to remain confined to their designated camps. Both sides have often traded charges of violating the ceasefire. In 2009, the NSCN(IM) set up a designated camp at Shiroy (in Manipur’s Ukhrul district, Muivah’s birthplace), which does not come under the Nagaland ceasefire. After a long standoff with the Assam Rifles, they were safely escorted out.
Every organisation has black sheep. As early as 2009, NSCN(IM) chairman Isak Swu told a gathering at the Hebron camp, “I see this crowd as a gathering of great revolutionaries with enormous responsibilities, but somehow burdened by indiscipline, selfishness, self-righteousness and immorality… these elements have eaten into the very foundation of our institution and have really brought disgrace to not only the organisation but also to its collective leadership.” He stressed the need to “refurbish the organisation&’s image”.
Perhaps, this should be done sooner rather than later.