1) A Brief History of Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)
The struggle for the independence of Nagaland predates the Indian independence. The secessionist activities became severe and violent with the rise of Angami Zapu Phizo, often called the ‘Father of the Nagas’ – as the chairman of The Naga National Council (NNC). Under the leadership of A Z Phizo 1 , NNC indulged in many armed encounters with Indian state and Army. After years of confrontation and noisy dialogues with the Indian government, in 1975, NNC signed The Shillong Accord 2 with The Union Government of India, accepting the supremacy of Constitution of India, surrendering their arms and discarding their demand for the secession of Nagaland from India.
At one end, Shillong Accord was a victory for Indian Government 3 but it also marked the beginning of a bloody and violent journey ahead. In 1980, three prominent leaders of the Naga movement – Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S.S. Khaplang – disgruntled by signing of the Shillong Accord between NCN and Indian government, formed a new group National Socialist Council of Nagalim to fight for the cause of Nagalim – Sovereign status for Nagaland. From the days of its formation, NSCN worked, both militarily and strategically, towards its objective of unifying all Naga tribes, residing both in India and Myanmar, under one umbrella and getting independence from Indian State: Liberation of Nagalim.
2) The Split Between Isak-Muivah and Khaplang: NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K)
In 1988, after prolonged ideological and aspirational differences, NSCN split into two factions, viz. NSCN (IM) led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah; and NSCN (K), led by and S.S. Khaplang. Though there are many theories abound for why the split occurred between two groups but the three major reasons can be defined as:
2.1 Clannish Divisions
One of the major reasons for the split was animosity between two clans: Konyaks and Tangkhuls. The Konyak clan formed the NSCN-K (K) under the leadership of K Konyak and S S Khaplang. NSCN (I-M) was dominated by The Tangkhuls under the leadership of Isak Chisi Swu and T. Muivah.
2.2 Misunderstanding Between Two Fractions
Leaders of both the groups remained under the Umbrella of NSCN for almost eight years, but over the time, major personal and ideological differences started to grow with Khaplang and its supporters on one side and Isak and Muivah on the another. The assassination attempt on Muivah served as the last nail in the coffin and marked the beginning of two separate factions.
2.3 Issues of Eastern Nagas
Interestingly, both the groups talk about the unification of all Naga tribes and attainment of Greater Nagaland -Nagalim- , but there seems to be an altercation between the leaders of two groups regarding the assimilation of Eastern Nagas, especially the ones residing in Burma. Khaplang faction seems to be in favour of an increased role and unification of Eastern Nagas, on the other hand, Isak-Muivah faction is more concerned about the fate of Western Nagas: almost all the top leadership of NSCN (I-M) comprised of Western Nagas.
3) Point of Convergence in the Demands of NSCN (I-M) and NSCN (K)
From the macabre days of Naga struggle, led by Phizo and his trusted lieutenant T.Sakhrie, in the form of Naga National Council (NNC), formation of ‘Greater Nagaland 4 ’, also referred to as Nagalim, as a sovereign State, Independent both from India and Burma (Myanmar), unifying all Naga tribes, has always, hitherto, been the focal point of each and every Naga struggle.
The demands of NSCN (I-M) And NSCN (K) also appear on the same stage. Both the groups demand the creation of Greater Nagaland and the autonomy to run it according to the Naga traditions.
Unification of all the Naga people living in different parts of Northeast India and some parts of Myanmar alco come across as a somewhat converging point in the demands of both the group.
4) Point of Divergence in the Demands of NSCN (I-M) and NSCN (K)
4.1 Socio-Economic Development
The manifesto of Isak-Muivah faction of NSCN talks about the paramount importance of Socialism for the economic development of Naga people. NSCN (I-M) abides by the ideology of Mao Tse-tung and believes that military struggle alone can't bring prosperity to the people of Nagaland and economic development is necessary to emancipate the lives of Nagas.
Whereas, NSCN (K) is more radical in their approach toward achieving the freedom for Nagaland. They think that mass struggle and military means alone are the ways to get what they deserve.
4.2 Inclusion of Christianity as an Ideology
NSCN (IM) seems to also have a religious agenda at its core. They propagate Christianity 5 among their cadre and also take help from The Church, in the form of donations and hide out places. Many of the Naga tribes seem to follow Christianity, in formal or informal manner, and, an agenda for propagating the religion fits very well with their broader agenda of unification of all Naga tribes. Though, it sometimes creates animosity between different tribes which follow different religions or have varying beliefs.
On the contrary, NSCN (K) has no such religious agenda and does not propagate Christianity, or any other religion, within their cadres. Their demands are related to the liberation of Nagaland, using any means, including violence.
4.3 Representation of Eastern Nagas
Both the groups – NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) – talk about the rights and liberation of Nagas in their speeches and manifestos. But, there seems to be a minor difference in the approaches of both the groups. NSCN (K), headed by Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, a Burma-born Naga, is more sympathetic towards the rights and representation of Eastern Nagas, who also reside in some parts of Burma (Myanmar).
Whereas, NSCN (IM), headed by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, both India-born Nagas, seems to be less concerned about the fate of Eastern Nagas, especially the ones residing in Burma. Interestingly, all the top leaders of NSCN (IM) come from the tribes belonging to clans of Western Nagas. Geographical affiliations seem to be the reason for differing sympathies and concerns among both the groups.
1) Article Title: Angami Phizo, 83; Fought for Secession In North India State (Published in The New York Times – May 4, 1980)
2) South Asia Terrorism Portal – Nagaland Accord The Shillong Agreement of November 11, 1975
3) Article Title: Explained Everything you need to know about Nagaland insurgency (Published in Indian Express, updated on August 4, 2015)
4) Article Title: Greater Nagaland,' the key issue by Vinay Kumar (Published in The Hindu – 26 January 2003)
5) Separatism in North East India, Dr. Kunal Ghosh, Suruchi Prakashan, Page No.58