Khaplang dies in Myanmar

National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) chairman Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang passed away in the Taga region of Hukawng Valley in Myanmar this evening. He was 77.

By Pankaj Sarma and Umanand Jaiswal in Guwahati
  • Published 10.06.17
S.S. Khaplang

Guwahati, June 9: National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) chairman Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang passed away in the Taga region of Hukawng Valley in Myanmar this evening. He was 77.

Khaplang had been suffering from diabetes and other age-related ailments for the past few years.

"Khaplang died at the headquarters of the NSCN(K) in Myanmar this evening," Nagaland director-general of police L.L. Doungel told The Telegraph this evening. Hukawng Valley is located in Kachin state in the northernmost part of that country.

Confirming Khaplang's death, former Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang said, "I cross-checked with Konyak Union president M. Konyak. He got in touch with Khaplang's relatives and called me at 8.30pm to inform about his death." Reports of Khaplang's death were sketchy initially since he died in a remote area of Myanmar.

"His funeral is expected to be held in Taga. A group is preparing to go to Myanmar," a source in the Nagaland government said.

Khaplang, who was born in April 1940, is the second influential insurgent leader to have died in less than a year after Isak Chishi Swu, chairman of NSCN (Isak-Muivah), passed away in Delhi on June 28 last year after prolonged illness. With an estimated cadre strength of around 1,300, the NSCN(K), which has had a running feud with the NSCN(I-M), is known to have pockets of influence in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. The NSCN's sworn objective of an independent Naga state that includes Naga-inhabited areas on both sides of the Indo-Myanmar border led to a direct clash between the NSCN(K), which controls Sagaing, and the Myanmarese army. Hostilities between the two sides abated only after signing of a peace agreement in April 2012.

Khaplang is known to have facilitated setting up of camps of the Ulfa (Independent), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the NDFB (Songbijit), all from Assam, along with Manipur's United National Liberation Front (UNLF). Khaplang's stronghold in Sagaing division is referred to as Eastern Nagaland by separatist Naga groups on either side of the border.

Vice-chairman of NSCN(K), Khango Konyak is widely expected to replace Khaplang. Another senior leader in the running is Nikki Sumi, who is part of the outfit's military wing.

While the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre signed a framework agreement on August 3, 2015, the ceasefire agreement was signed in July 1997. The NSCN(K)'s peace deal with Delhi came in April 2001.

While the framework agreement Swu signed in August 2015 helped keep the peace between the outfit and the security forces, Khaplang abrogated his ceasefire in 2015 soon after helping form the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW), a conglomerate of the Ulfa (I), NSCN (K), KLO and NDFB (S). The reason for the abrogation is believed to be that while the Centre had a series of talks with NSCN(I-M), Khaplang was not invited to Delhi even once for talks.

"Whether Khaplang's death brings down the violence the NSCN(K) has orchestrated in the Northeast is something we will have to wait and see," said PRO (defence) Lt Col Suneet Newton in Guwahati.

"The NSCN(K) is waging war against the Union. So our operations against them will continue."

Additional reporting by our Guwahati bureau