The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Defection game on Naga rebel turf

Dimapur, Oct. 16: The Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland has lost one of its top leaders, kilo kilonser (home minister) Tongmeth Konyak, to the rival Isak-Muivah group.

The defection has come at the most inopportune time for the militant group, which has been trying to re-establish its base in Nagaland since mob attacks on its command headquarters in Mokokchung left its organisational and logistic base in disarray.

Tongmeth’s defection to the NSCN (I-M) was confirmed by the deputy secretary of the militant group’s “ministry of information and publicity”, J. Tallinao. “The home minister of the NSCN (K) joined our organisation along with a captain — both hailing from the Konyak tribe — a few days ago,” he said.

The identity of the second defector was, however, withheld by the militant group. The NSCN (K), too, has yet to issue a statement on the development.

Sources said the defection of two Konyak militant leaders to the Isak-Muivah group was likely to give it the leverage required to make inroads into Mon district, which has long been a stronghold of the NSCN (K).

The Isak-Muivah group has reportedly set up a base in the Tizit area of the district already.

Leaders of the outfit claimed they were expecting more defections from the higher echelons of the NSCN (K).

“Many of its regional commanders and political leaders are in a state of utter confusion over its anti-people policies,” one of them said.

An intelligence report corroborated the NSCN (I-M)’s claim, saying the defection of two leaders from its rival group could prompt other militants to follow suit. NSCN (K) members from the Konyak tribe are expected to be the first to switch allegiance to the rival group.

The Konyak tribe contributes the bulk of the NSCN (K)’s manpower and any such mass defection could break the group’s backbone and enable the NSCN (I-M) to increase its presence in Mon district.

Another advantage for the NSCN (I-M) in the event of more defections would be the opportunity to project itself as the sole upholder of the Naga cause. The NSCN (I-M) describes any defection from the rival Khaplang group as a “homecoming”.

Security agencies fear a fresh burst of factional feuding if the defections continue. Hundreds of members of both factions have been killed in clashes since 1998.

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