Nagaland can be called the epicenter of insurgency in north-eastern India. The roots of the Naga separatism go back to the formation of Naga Club in 1918 at Kohima. The objective of this Naga Club was to represent Naga Interests to the British Government. By that time, a clear picture of what later was known as Naga Nationalism had not appeared. The Nagas submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission that visited Nagaland in 1929. Via this memorandum, they requested the British Government to leave the Nagas as free people and not to include them within the Indian Union.
One of the results of these efforts was that the Naga Areas were declared as Special Backward Area and later the Excluded Area status in the Government of India Act 1935.
In 1946, the Naga Club was renamed as Naga Nationalist Council (NNC). In June 1947, a Nine Point agreement was signed between the British Government of India and the Naga National Council. This agreement included a coexistence (which they claim that was temporary and experimental) with India for a period of ten years, to be reviewed at the end of that period. However, in July 1947, the NNC let by Dr. A.Z. Phizo met Mahatma Gandhi and stated that the Nagas would declare their independence day on 14.8.1947. They indeed declared their independence on 14th August 1947. Phizo was arrested in 1948 by Government of India. Once released, he led NNC again. On May 11, 1952, the Naga delegation met the Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru; the talks remained unsuccessful. In 1954, a Sovereign Republic of Nagaland was established. In 1956, Phizo replaced the Sovereign Republic of Nagaland with Naga Central Government and later in 1959 the Federal Government of Nagaland. They also formed the Naga Home Guards. However, there was growing difference among various Naga leaders which led to internal violence among various factions.
By that time, the Indian Army had marched into Nagaland and suppressed the rebellion. In late 1950s, some moderates abandoned the violent path and decided that it would be better to be with India rather than a separate country. The Naga People’s Convention thus came into existence with Dr. Imkongliba as its President. The NPC spearheaded the movement to create Nagaland State within the Indian Union with a high degree of autonomy.
The Government of India, while taking effective measures to put down the insurgency, decided to meet the genuine aspirations of Nagas and, therefore, carved out a separate State of Nagaland on December 1, 1963. Earlier, the Constitution 13th Amendment Act, passed in 1962, had laid down via Article 371 A that
No Act of Parliament in respect of
- Religious or social practices of the Nagas,
- Naga customary law and procedure,
- Administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law,
- Ownership and transfer of land and its resources
shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.
The above amendment in the constitution gave the Nagas best of two worlds viz. a complete self-determination for themselves, as much or as little administrative isolation from the rest of India as they wish, and the backing of India of which their country is essentially a geographical entity.
However, Pakistan via its then eastern wings kept fanning the sentiments of revolt and abatement in Nagas. In the 1960s, China also got muddled with the affairs of Nagaland.
An agreement was reached by the Indian Government and the NNC in the year 1975. This came to be known as the Shillong Accord. Via the Shillong Accord, rebels had to accept the Constitution of India without condition, surrender arms and renounce the demand for secession.
But, some leaders in the NNC called as total betrayal including Isak Chishi Swu, Th Muivah and Khaplang. This led to the formation of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland or the NSCN in the late 1970s under the leadership of Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and Khaplang. It started an underground Naga Federal government having both Civil and Military wings. It again split into two factions in the late 1980s: the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) and the NSCN (Khaplang).
Out of them, the NSCN (IM) is the most formidable insurgent outfit in India’s north-eastern states. It is active not only in Nagaland but also in the Naga-inhabited areas of Arunachal, Manipur and even Myanmar.
Ceasefire Agreement 1997
On August 01, 1997, a cease-fire agreement was negotiated between the Government of India and the NSCN. More than fifty rounds of peace talks have since been held between the representatives of the Government of India and the rebel Naga leaders. There is, however, unfortunately no agreement on the substantive issues.
Demand for Nagalim & State Response
The Naga rebels have been insisting on their sovereignty and also demanding the creation of a ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim, which consists all the Naga-inhabited areas of neighbouring Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and some portions Myanmar, which it considers to be the rightful homeland of the Nagas. Establishment of Nagalim is the objective of NCSN (IM), according to which Nagalim lies in the Patkai range at the trijunction of China, India and Myanmar.
The NSCN-IM maintains that at present Nagalim has been subdivided by the Government of India into four different administrative units: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. Likewise, they claim that Myanmar too has parts of Nagalim and has divided it under two administrative units of Kachin State and Sagaing division. Thus, the establishment of Nagalim threatens to include large chunks of territories of three neighbouring States, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, along with some portion of Myanmar.
What are Various Problems in Peace Settlement?
- Fulfilling the demand of a Greater Nagaland would affect the integrity of other states. In 2010, the Government of India had made it clear that it will not change the boundaries of the current states.
- New Delhi is insisting that it would negotiate only with one entity. But the Naga Problem has too many stakeholders with wide differences among them. Each of them claims mandate to represent the Nagas. However, the majority of the Nagas have their own resentment towards Delhi which according to them is pampering a few gun-toting men with little resonance with broad Naga family.
The Intervention of Delhi in Naga affairs has been quite reckless. Naga Polity is made of 25 tribes and each of these tribes is a proud owner and inheritor of distinct culture, language, tradition and geography within the broad framework of Naga family. However, Delhi has dealt with them as if it was a homogenous collective with common aspirations. Making a deal with one set does not mean that it satisfies all sets. For example, the New Delhi is currently engaged with the NSCN (IM), which essentially an entity of Tangkhul tribes of Manipur, having little resonance with other Nagas. The other powerful groups have been largely ignored. NSCN (K) reportedly holds sway over almost the entire eastern Nagaland and its people — and resonates well with the locals including the Konyaks, the largest of Naga tribes. Similarly, the NSCN (KK) — essentially a militia of the Sumis, one of the larger Naga tribes — control a large swathe of Nagaland adjoining Manipur and also has heavy presence in Dimapur district. The Naga National Council (NNC), the mother of all Naga militias though now a rump of its older self, deeply resonates with the Angamis, the second largest Naga tribe, and their kin tribes in Kohima and adjoining regions.
The status of the Nagaland Problem is gruesome at present. There is a ceasefire agreement in force since 1997. Naga Peace talks began between representatives of the Indian government and the NSCN-IM’s founder-leaders, Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah. Many rounds of talks have taken place but peace has not dawned upon the state. In late 2012, it was reported that the government may finalize an agreement any time. In October 2012, NSCN-IM was reported to have agreed to surrender arms in exchange for an interim political solution within the Constitution. It was reported that NSCN (IM) agreed to drop its demands for Nagalim, integrating Naga-inhabited areas in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, and of redrawing boundaries. As part of the agreement, Nagaland would get a separate State flag and the Assembly will be renamed “Tatar Hoho” and a pan-Naga social body will be formed. Article 371A will have to be amended, under which no Act of Parliament applies to Nagaland and it has special status.