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A Naga hero

Isak Swu had walked the long path of the Naga rebellion — from armed struggle to peace talks.

By: Editorial |
Updated: June 30, 2016 12:02:56 am

He was the I of the NSCN-IM, which spearheaded the longest-running insurgency in independent India. Isak Chisi Swu, a Sumi Naga, who headed the Naga struggle with Thuingaleng Muivah, a Naga from Manipur hills, had nearly negotiated a historic peace accord for his people with the Indian government, before he died in New Delhi, aged 87 on Tuesday. A Framework Accord was signed in August last year between representatives of the NSCN-IM and the Indian government as Swu’s health slipped, perhaps, to make it clear that he endorsed the peace deal. It was important to let the Naga community know that Swu, ailing for a while, was in the loop and was committed to a negotiated end to the insurgency, which dates back to the 1940s. The details of the accord have not been made public though the guns are silent in the Naga hills, a clear indication that Swu and Muivah had public backing.

Swu, who joined the rebels nearly six decades ago, and Muivah had revived the Naga rebellion even after a section of the powerful Naga National Council signed the Shillong Accord in 1975. With a handful of cadres — and help from China — Swu and Muivah continued the armed struggle through the 1980s. If Muivah provided the military leadership, Swu was the ideologue whose connections with the church helped to keep the numerous tribes united under the banner of the NSCN. The departure of S.S. Khaplang, a Hemi Naga from Myanmar, dented the claim of the NSCN to represent the whole of the Naga people, but Swu and Muivah ensured that their organisation remained the representative platform of the insurgency.

The extended ceasefire since the 1990s had the wholehearted support of Naga civil society, which enabled the two leaders to prepare their cadres for a negotiated peace settlement with the Indian state. Nagaland, of course, will mourn Swu’s death, but his absence may not derail the peace talks, because he has departed after preparing the ground for a politics that looks at liberation not merely in the terms of armed struggle and the state.

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