The devil within! Split wide open!
The Sangai Express
June 10 2011
Launching an armed movement on some lofty ideals and ideologies is but just a part of the whole, known as the insurrection. Sustaining the movement is an altogether different kettle of fish and more challenging, if we may add. Apart from the challenges of sustaining a movement, which every rebel leader must tackle, another equally challenging task is keeping the flock together for it is not without reason why there is the popular observation that one needs to be more wary of the enemy within than those outside.
No one will know this better than the battle hardened, veteran rebel leaders, who have been waging a bush war against the Government of India for decades and among these rebel leaders, Mr SS Khaplang will surely stand tall, never mind whether one agrees with his political beliefs or not. AZ Phizo, the man who sowed the seeds of Naga nationalism and independence from India in the 50s, had to also face the challenges we have just noted and a look at the history of any armed outfits operating in the North East region will be more than enough to convince anyone that the real test of a movement and by extension its leadership will start the moment the romanticism associated with raising the banner of revolt and leading the life of a wanted man begins to ebb, in the face of the harsh reality of waging a bush war against a well established adversary. The blow from the enemy is something which every guerilla leader and his men are trained to absorb without much of a problem, but the tricky part arises when it comes to dealing with internal affairs and Messrs. Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah, SS Khaplang and earlier before them the late AZ Phizo, have had to face this challenge more than once in their long years of leading a ‘revolution’. If the Shillong Accord of 1975 sowed the seeds of the NSCN in 1980, it was the devil from within which scripted the split of the NSCN in 1988 and led to more internecine bloodshed. Such developments are not unique to the armed movement of the Naga people, but also to the movements witnessed in Manipur, Assam and to a lesser extent in Tripura. The question is, are internal differences and splits part and parcel of any armed movement more so when it has stretched for decades ? No rebel leader would want to say yes to this poser but the reality tells a story which may compel the public to raise such a question. More than the adversary, against whom the movement was first launched, it is the devil within which has emerged as the greatest challenge facing those who took the lead in raising the banner of revolt and led their men into the jungles to wage a bush war. If it is not the internal devil, then it is the mushrooming of numerous Johny Come Lately, who don the mask of the “original revolutionaries” and slowly and gradually start sapping the life of the public. In the process, the very movement gets exposed to the danger of losing public sympathy and support, thus eroding the very foundation on which the movement rests. Manipur is a fit case to describe a place which has been crippled by the emergence of the Pretenders.
As things stand today, the devil within has come back to haunt the outfit hitherto led by SS khaplang. It may not be a repeat of 1988, but nevertheless the recent development cannot be written off that easily and this is where our observation that containing the devil within is a more challenging task than taking up the gun and raising the banner of revolt against a system or a Govern- ment, comes into focus. In many ways the decree issued from Camp Khehoi just off Dimapur a few days back, may prove more damaging to the aspirations of the Naga people when viewed in the backdrop of the changed political scenario. Since 2000, the hitherto NSCN (K) has been maintaining a cease fire with the Government of India and the spade work for a political dialogue had already started. The reconciliation process amongst the different armed groups, notably the IM group, the K group as well as the factions of the NNC is on under the overall supervision of the Naga Reconciliation Forum and it remains to be seen whether the Khehoi decree will have any adverse impact on the efforts to bury the past and work out a common future course of action. The political compulsion of the Naga armed movement is such that the new development cannot be to the interest of any Nagas, much less the IM group, with which the K group was at war since 1988. This in essence means that a new division in any of the armed outfits cannot be viewed in isolation for no group exists in a vacuum and the internal development within a group is sure to have a spill over effect on the people on whose behalf the banner of revolt was first raised. This is the situation in which the people of Nagaland find themselves in today and the tragedy is all the efforts by the Naga Reconciliation Forum, the Church leaders, the civil society organisations and the fervent appeal from the public face the prospect of going down the drain. The politics of launching an armed movement means something much more than merely spending days in the jungles or acquiring more fire power and recruiting cadres by the thousands. It means exorcising the devil within but the past tells us in no uncertain terms that this is easier said than done and it requires all rebel leaders to be an excellent guerilla fighter, a master strategist, a diplomat, tough but understanding and sympa- thetic, aloof and at the same time a man of the mass, etc all rolled into one. Clearly a tough call to follow.