Wancho Council says rise in kidnappings, extortion in TCL due to govt’s failure

[Bengia Ajum]

ITANAGAR, 2 Jun: Videos of the citizens of Longding district launching massive protests and raising slogans, demanding that the NSCN go back, recently made headlines in the state.

It is believed that more than 5,000 people from all walks of life took to the streets on Monday in Tirap, Changlang and Longding (TCL) districts to protest against the repeated incidents of kidnapping of innocent villagers by underground (UG) groups.

Most of the people’s anger was directed towards the NSCN (K-YA), a faction that was created out of the previous NSCN (K). The group has been accused of indulging in rampant extortion and kidnapping of citizens, especially in Longding district.

When Naga rebel leader SS Khaplang died in 2017, Khango Konyak was elected as the new chairman of the NSCN (K). But when he agreed to join the peace talks with the government of India, he was impeached and replaced by Yung Aung, a Myanmarese national, as the new chairman. Aung is believed to be the nephew of late SS Khaplang and is based in Sagaing region of Myanmar.

“His faction, named NSCN (K-YA), is not in talks with the government of India. The faction is trying to create its own imprint and therefore there is a sudden increase in their activities,” said a police official.

He said that Longding district is being targeted due to its strategic location. “Longding shares a porous boundary with Myanmar and Nagaland. It is easy for the Myanmar-based cadres to cross into Longding to commit crimes and then easily go back,” the police official added.

The security official said he believes that “the constant splits in the rebel groups and changes in loyalty by the cadres are also causing the rise in cases of kidnapping.”

“When an operative abandons one group and joins another, he/she takes away costly guns along with them. In order to recoup the money incurred to buy those guns, the groups who lost out target the villages where the operative belongs and try to extort money,” said another security official.

The locals of Longding district, under the banner of the Wancho Council, organised the massive protests on Monday.

Speaking to this daily, Wancho Council (WC) chairman Sompha Wangsa said that, in the last one year itself, 11 people have been kidnapped for ransom.

“The situation has worsened in the recent year. The people of the district are living in fear. Fear psychosis has gripped the citizens. We are fed up with the situation,” said the WC chairman.

He said that the rise in the number of kidnappings and extortion is a result of “the failure of the state government to bring law and order under control in the district.

“Despite the presence of security personnel in the district, kidnappings are happening. This shows the total failure of the government,” he said.

Wangsa added that the citizens have made an effort to reach out to the UG groups and ask them not to harm innocent citizens. “We keep on appealing to them not to disturb the peace in the region. Our appeal has not been heeded by them,” he said.

The chairman went on to add that “an early solution to the Indo-Naga peace talks” and sealing of the Indo-Myanmar border would help in bringing peace in the region.

“We need peace and are tired of the UG problem affecting the whole TCL region,” said Wangsa.