Former NSCN(IM) Commander-in-Chief and associates slip into China

History seems to be repeating itself in Nagaland with reports that a prominent former commander and his associates slipped into China despite surveillance of Indian security and intelligence agencies

Phunting Shimrah, former Commander-in-Chief, NSCN(IM)
Phunting Shimrah, former Commander-in-Chief, NSCN(IM)

Bula Devi

Phunting Shimrah, the former self-styled Commander-in-Chief of the armed wing of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah) – NSCN(IM) – has crossed over to China. He is said to have been spotted at Ruili area in Yunnan.

There are red faces in the Home Ministry as former underground Naga leaders were under the watch of security forces and Intelligence agencies. The escape of a high-profile former Commander-in-Chief has come as an embarrassment to the Government with the Naga accord believed to be at an advanced stage for signing.

It is not just Shimrah alone who has escaped to China, say reports. Shimrah is understood to have taken with him Pamshing Muivah (Apam) and Hansi, besides a handful of other cadres.

It is learnt that his other associate, self-styled Major General Absalom Rockwang Tangkhul has also crossed over across Tirap (in Arunachal Pradesh) to Myanmar along with 100-140 cadres.

Sources said that initially, Shimrah and his men sought help from NSCN(Khaplang) group who operate from Myanmar. However, NSCN(K) group’s commander is believed to have turned down the request.

NSCN (IM) and NSCN(K) were initially one group but they became archrivals following bloody clashes over dominance.

It is believed that after NSCN(K) refused to have truck with them, Shimrah and his underground cadres approached ULFA. Paresh Barua, the underground head of ULFA, is believed to be the one who confirmed to the media in the North East the presence Shimrah in China.

Observers believe that Shimrah and group have slipped out of the country either to seek help from China to continue with their armed struggle or they were apprehensive that they too would be incarcerated in detention camps like the Government has done with leaders in Kashmir.

Some observers believe that because the Indian Government is firm on not conceding the Naga demand of having a separate flag and Constitution, Shimrah may have revolted against the leadership which is in favour of striking a deal with the Centre.

It is learnt that when the clock was ticking on October 31, the date set by the Prime Minister for signing the accord, it was loosely agreed that these two issues would be taken up after signing of the accord.

Muivah in two of his interviews to this correspondent after he came overground had said that Government of India should realise that China was always there for his cadres to fall back on. When NNC signed an agreement with the Government of India under Indira Gandhi, Muivah and his supporters were outraged and had gone over to China to get further armed training.

History seems to be repeating itself in Nagaland.

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