For a brief period the NSCN remained a forefront organisation representing the Naga movemnet but soon it split in 1988, following an abortive assassination attempt targeting Muivah, Khaplang drove the Indian Naga cadre out of Myanmar - mainly from the Konyak and Tangkhul tribes - and forced his rivals to shift base to Thailand, reports Indian Express (IE).
After the failure of the Shillong Accord signed between the Indian government and Phizo's Naga National Council in 1975, Khaplang and Muivah went underground and formed the NSCN. "This grandee of the indigenous citizens of WeSEA (Western South East Asia) will be greatly missed in the vales and hills of the compact". It could not be invited to peace talks, however, since Khaplang was a Myanmar national - provoking him to walk out of the ceasefire in 2015.
"It is tragic that an important Naga leader like Khaplang expired considering the fact that the protracted Naga political problem is on the verge of being resolved and the need for all different Naga political groups to come together to air our views and aspirations to the Government of India in one voice is absolutely imperative", Liezietsu said in a condolence message here today. Peyong will take over as Chairman of NSCN (K). Sources said it has to be seen that who succeeds Khaplang in UNLFW.
A day after the passing of SS Khaplang, the commander-in-chief of the NSCN Khaplang faction, Thuingaleng Muivah, the General Secretary of the NSCN Isak-Muivah faction has released a condolence message "forgiving SS Khaplang for the political mistakes and crimes he had committed".
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Khaplang started the Naga armed struggle in the early 60s by forming the Naga Defence Force after Zapu A.Z. Phizo declared war on India.
The two Naga rebel leaders - Khaplang and Muivah along with Isak Chishi Swu - formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in 1980.
Swu had died in Delhi on June 28 a year ago. Earlier this week, an Indian Army major was killed while three ULFA cadres were eliminated in an encounter in Monday district of Nagaland bordering Myanmar. Khaplang, whose faction had pulled out of the ceasefire with New Delhi, carried a reward of Rs 7 lakh on his head for his capture. In memory of the departed leader who had dedicated all his life to the cause of the Naga people, let all Naga people dedicate ourselves to strive for peace, harmony and well-being of the entire Naga family so that we and our children can march ahead with the rest of the world as equals in the 21 century and even more'.