did indian surgical strikes trigger 'coup' in naga militant group?

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In an unprecedented move, thought to be the first time in the Naga separatist movement's history, the NSCN(K) has removed its chairman, Khango Konyak. A younger leader, Yung Aung, 45, has replaced Konyak, an Indian Naga, as the chairman of the NSCN(K). The Naga outfit has maintained that the organisation is intact and ready to give a "serious blow to the Indian Army" very soon.

Internal sources in the NSCN(K) have confirmed to THE WEEK that it was a bloodless coup within the outfit after the recent attacks by the Myanmar Army on the outfit's camp near Sagaing in Myanmar, around 30km away from the international border. The sudden attack was seen as a failure on the part of Konyak, who was not liked by the younger leaders of the NSCN(K). However, Konyak

was known to be a close confidante of one of NSCN(K)'s early leaders, the late S.S. Khaplang.

Interestingly, Aung is a Burmese Naga and also a nephew of Khaplang.

While one source confirmed that Konyak was impeached by the Naga outfit's executive body, another claimed he decided to step down voluntarily in the interest of greater Naga unity. Perhaps, Myanmar was not ready to accept an Indian Naga as chief of NSCN(K) to work on its soil.

A third source has, however, said Konyak was injured in the recent attacks by the Myanmar army and was taken to a safe shelter. Konyak was apparently being chased by the Indian Army in recent times, during series of surgical strikes by the Indian military, and perhaps has crossed over to Thailand or Malaysia or even China.

None of the sources have confirmed the whereabouts of Konyak, who was recently found in a difficult situation after religious groups in Nagaland got in touch with him and requested him to join the talks with the Central government. They argued that without NSCN(K), the Naga talks would remain inconclusive.

A senior NSCN(K) leader has confirmed the change of guard.

"But please don't ask me anything as there has been no official declaration from our side," he added.

It was believed that recently Myanmar army stepped up attacks against NSCN(K), violating a decades-old ceasefire agreement at the insistence of the Narendra Modi government.

Konyak was also chief of the United Liberation Front of South West East Asia (UNLFW), a conglomeration of more than half-dozen insurgent groups including NSCN(K), ULFA(I) and NDFB(S). Konyak reportedly did not find time to regroup the organisation as he had taken charge just a year back after demise of Khaplang.

Unlike in the past, the UNLFW this time did not make any appeal to create disturbances during Independence Day celebrations even as six groups in Manipur asked people to oppose the event. As a result, after many decades, gunshots did not resound in the northeast during Independence Day celebrations this week.

Aung is a post-graduate of political science from Imphal University and an expert in explosive management and procurement. He was trained in Bangladesh, Pakistan and China by ULFA, ISI and Chinese intelligence, respectively, in the late 1990s. A remarkable sportsman who played for his university, Aung is known to be sharp, brilliant and intelligent.

"He also took part in a polo competition in Manipur and plays the sports very well," said a member of NSCN(K).

An Indian Army officer in the northeast said, "We are keeping a close watch over the development. No information has come to us about the change of guard."

It's to be seen who would take charge of the UNLFW. Sources said Paresh Barua, the chief of ULFA, is the front runner.

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