Job hope prompts Nagaland youths to join rebel groups

Naga youths lined up in a recruitment camp of a rebel group somewhere in Nagaland. (DH photo)

Hope of getting jobs in central paramilitary forces has led many Naga youths to line up in the fresh recruitment drives carried out by several rebel groups ahead of the signing of the final agreement that seeks to end decades-long Naga conflict.

Security officials in Nagaland told DH that rebel groups such as NSCN (IM) and Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), a conglomeration of seven rebel groups, which are likely to sign the pact with the Centre are recruiting new youths at several places in Nagaland. Sources said the drive intensified after the Centre's interlocutor and Nagaland governor R N Ravi concluded the negotiation with the rebel groups on October 30. Both NSCN (IM) and groups in NNPG are in ceasefire with the government. 

The drive started amid reports that the Centre would induct the cadres of the rebel groups into central paramilitary forces as part of a rehabilitation scheme to be announced in the final Naga pact. 

"The hope of getting jobs is even prompting minor boys to line up in recruitment camps organised by several rebel groups. At least 32 minor boys were recently stopped by police in Mon district before they could join factions of the NSCN. This shows how acute is the unemployment problem in Nagaland," a senior police officer told DH. 

Expressing concern over the trend, chairman of Ceasefire Monitoring Group, Lt Gen. Shokin Chauhan told reporters in Nagaland capital Kohima that the fresh recruitment could drive home a wrong signal ahead of the signing of the final agreement. "They (rebel groups) are recruiting fresh youths on the pretext that the ground rules prohibit only forced recruitment. They are of the opinion that recruitment is allowed if it is not forced. But here youths are joining hoping for jobs. But I believe that jobs will be provided to those who have been part of the organisations for long and not the newly recruited ones. At the same time, they could turn hostile if the jobs are not provided to them due to their failure to meet the eligibility criteria," he said adding that eligibility criteria would also be counted before recruitment in any government agencies.

In a statement emailed to DH on November 25, NSCN (IM) claimed the Naga youths were willing to join the "Naga national service" out of their own conviction and did not violate the ceasefire ground rules. "They are not being forced by any local authority or NSCN. They are joining as the Naga national cause attracts them," it said.

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