SS Khaplang, who headed his faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K), has died at his residence in Myanmar, NSCN sources said on Friday.
Khaplang, who was a diabetic and suffered from other health issues, passed away in Taga.
Khaplang, whose faction had pulled out of the ceasefire in 2015 with New Delhi — under the influence of United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) chief Paresh Baruah — carried a reward of Rs 7 lakh on his head for his capture.
National general secretary of BJP Ram Madhav tweeted: “News is that NSCN (K) leader Khaplang is dead… Leadership taken over by Khango Konyak.”
“Khaplang was one of those who never compromised with his ideology and principals, come what may. Till his death, he believed only sovereignty from both sides (India and Myanmar) can bring Nagas together. Now it will be interesting to see how his boys carry his legacy forward,” P Tikhak, formerly a senior military commander with Kaplang’s group and now the founder of NSCN-Reformation, told news agency IANS.
Asked if NSCN (K) could return to ceasefire with the government, Tikhak said there was a very bleak chance for the group to have truce with the Indian government.
Another former member of NSCN (K) and now general secretary of NSCN (Unification) Kithovi Zhimomi told IANS: “The Naga revolution has lost a great leader who led the Naga sovereignty movement for decades. This is a huge loss. However, since Khaplang was a Myanmar citizen, his death should not affect the negotiations between the government and other NSCN factions.”
Born in 1940 in Waltham village in Sagaing province of Myanmar, Khaplang was also heading the joint terror group United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia, with support from ULFA (I), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songibijit) and other Manipuri militants groups such as KYKL, APLA and AKLO, among others.
His group was held responsible several times for ambush on the India Army, with the biggest being in Chandel in June 2015, killing 20 soldiers of Dogra Regiment.
Khaplang had been part of the Naga revolution since its early days. However, he and two other senior leaders T Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu later formed NSCN in 1980, only to further be divided into NSCN (K) and NSCN (Isak-Muivah).
According to the NSCN (K) sources, Khaplang had not been keeping well and was bed-ridden for months.