A lesser-known Naga extremist group involved in killing seven, including an Assam Rifles officer his wife and minor son, in an ambush in Manipur’s Churachandpur district on Saturday has puzzled the security forces and counter-insurgency specialists.
The Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) had along with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) claimed responsibility for the attack that killed Colonel Viplap Tripathi and his family.
The PLA had been lying low for about six years until Saturday’s strike but had been around since September 1978 as one of the fiercest of the VBIGs, an abbreviation used by the armed forces to mean groups comprising mostly of fighters from the Meitei community who dominate Manipur’s Imphal Valley.
VBIG expands to Valley-based insurgent group.
“There isn’t much dope on the MNPF except that it is ideologically opposed to the NSCN (I-M), the strongest of Manipur’s Naga group but not in conflict with the armed forces in the State since the ceasefire in 1997,” an armed forces officer keeping tabs on activities along the India-Myanmar border said.
NSCN (I-M) is short for the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland.
According to local intelligence officials in Manipur, the MNPF was formed in June 2013 after the merger of two more obscure outfits called the United Naga People’s Council and Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front.
A statement issued by the MNPF some time ago said the group’s principal objective was “restoration of sovereignty and right to self-determination” besides “bridging the gap” among all revolutionary groups across the seven contiguous north-eastern States.
Justifying the merger, the outfit had said: “We encompass all parties for a united struggle which is our loud and clear message. We shall not demoralise our political vision by remaining aloof like the organisations under ceasefire pacts whose interest is either higher autonomy or economic package.”
The dig at the NSCN (I-M) was apparent as it added: “Their submissive policy at the cost of people’s blood and sweat has demoralised the revolutionary spirit, thereby losing people’s confidence at large.”
Last known, the MNPF’s chairman was John Francis Kashung and Wilson Tao its general secretary. Its publicity secretary Thomas Numai issued the joint statement on Saturday’s ambush along with Roben Khuman, his counterpart in the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF).
The RPF is the political wing of the PLA.