Heated exchange between NSCN-IM and govt

New Delhi: Tempers ran high at a camp of NSCN-IM in Nagaland on Saturday when the outfit leadership demanded they be allowed to travel to the home town of chairman Isaac Chishi Swu with their own security but the Centre insisted that they can do so only with government security.

The tiff erupted when NSCN-IM leader V S Atem wrote to Union Home Ministry seeking permission for the visit of the outfit's leadership to Swu's home town Zunheboto at the invitation of Sumi Hoho, an influential tribal socio-cultural organisation.

However, the Home Ministry conveyed to the militant group that the ground situation in the Nagaland town was not conducive now due to the factional rivalry among two other insurgent groups -- Khaplang faction of NSCN and Khole-Kitovi faction of NSCN -- for a large group's visit, sources said.

An adamant NSCN-IM insisted that they would travel to Zunheboto with armed cadres, prompting the Centre today to order Assam Rifles to stop the journey by putting up barricades.

The Home Ministry's contention is that it would allow the travel only after ensuring foolproof security of NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, Swu and others as they are "highly threatened" persons and proper assessment of the ground situation, sources said.

It also put other conditions: that the delegation will not have any armed NSCN-IM cadre, there will not be more than 20 vehicles in the convoy, no public meeting and no press conference during the trip and they will be provided only government security.

The issue saw heated exchange of words between the NSCN-IM and the government representatives.

Since ensuring proper security along the road and at Zunheboto and making assessment of the ground situation takes time and cannot be done overnight, the Home Ministry has asked the NSCN-IM leadership to have patience till all the arrangements are made, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Centre has directed the Ceasefire Monitoring Group in Nagaland to talk to rival Naga militant groups to get their assurance that no untoward incident is taken place during the visit.

"The steps are being taken only to ensure security of NSCN-IM leadership. We hope that they will cooperate with the government to resolve the issue amicably and shortly," the sources said.

A ceasefire was agreed on with NSCN-IM in August, 1997. In May, 1998, the Union government appointed Swaraj Kaushal as the first peace negotiator. He continued in his post till July 1999. After him, former home secretary K Padmanabhaiah took charge as the Centre's pointsman and continued till 2009.

R S Pandey, a former petroleum secretary and a 1972 batch Nagaland cadre IAS officer, was appointed as the new interlocutor on February 11, 2010.