Even as various individuals and organisations in Nagaland have mourned the death of NSCN(K) chairman SS Khaplang that had occurred on Friday evening in Myanmar, Nagaland chief minister Shourhozelie Liezietsu has claimed that the rebel leader who had pulled out of a ceasefire in April 2015 was later willing to have a dialogue with New Delhi “provided issues of substance were discussed.”
“Khaplang had, a few months back, conveyed his willingness to have dialogue with the government of India, provided “issues of substance” were discussed. However before things could be taken forward to its logical conclusion, it is calamitous that the Naga leader could not live long enough to see the proverbial Promised Land,” chief minister Shourhozelie, in a condolence message issued in Kohima on Saturday said.
The Nagaland chief minister said that after Khaplang had abrogated the ceasefire in 2015, the state government, in consultation with the Centre, had sent several delegations to meet him in Myanmar and convince him to re-enter the peace process and find an early solution to the Naga political problem. “And it was encouraging to learn that Khaplang had, a few months back, conveyed his willingness to have dialogue with the government, provided “issues of substance” were discussed,” the chief minister said.
Condoling the death of Khaplang, chief minister Shourhozelie also said that it was tragic especially when the protracted Naga problem was in the verge of being resolved. “It is tragic that such an important Naga leader like Khaplang has expired, considering the fact that the protracted Naga political problem is in the verge of being resolved, and the need for all different Naga political groups to come together to air our views and aspirations to the government of India in one voice is absolutely imperative,” he said.
Former Nagaland chief minister TR Zeliang on the other hand referred to Khaplang as “Uncle” and said that he had made several efforts to reach out to the NSCN(K) chairman during his tenure, and requested him to come back into the ceasefire agreement from which he had pulled out in April 2015 as also to sign a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmarese government. “This, I had stated, would be the best solution for the Nagas living on both sides of India and Myanmar so that the Nagas would see permanent peace and march forward with progress and development,” he said.
“I had personally gone to Myanmar for consultative meetings with the Naga leaders where I had requested Naga apex organisations to meet Uncle SS Khaplang and convey my sincere request to have a ceasefire agreement with the government of Myanmar and to opt for a peaceful dialogue to resolve the Naga political issue amicably for the Nagas living in Myanmar,” Zeliang, in a statement in Kohima said.
Describing Khaplang as “a bold Naga leader”, Zeliang said, “I was deeply touched and impressed when he sent back words of appreciation on sending the Naga Hoho, ENPO, Naga Mothers’ Association and Church leaders on their second trip to Myanmar with the same mission for peace. I am filled with regrets and it is most unfortunate that today, we have lost a bold Naga leader before he could fully realise the mission and cherished dream of the Nagas,” Zeliang said.
Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) – a leading human rights body of region – on the other hand described Khaplang’s death as a “rude shock” especially at a time when the Naga people needed elderly and experienced leaders to set right the course of the Naga destiny. “Khaplang’s commitment to do what the upcoming Naga generation wants as the Naga national movement is for the wellbeing of future Naga generation, would always be treasured and cherished,” NPMHR secretary general Neingulo Krome said.