Though the Naga agreement has been hailed as historic, the failure of the Union government in announcing its details so far has resulted in lack of any celebration among the members of the tribe. Nagaland has kept its fingers crossed with confusion and concern over signing of the framework agreement whose implications are far more than what meets the eye. The accord will have impact not just in its neighbouring states but also in Myanmar.
November 11, 1975 was a red-letter day in Nagaland’s turmoil-ridden political history. Under the aegis of the Government of India, the Shillong Accord was signed between the state government of Nagaland and the “Naga government” of the underground movement for sovereignty led by the Naga National Council (NNC).
One of the pre-conditions was that the Naga leadership should accept a solution within the Constitutional framework. A section of the younger leaders in NNC were unhappy with the deal and wanted nothing less then a sovereign Nagalim. The Shillong Accord, which this section of Naga hardliners thought was a “soft deal”, triggered the formation of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Nagalim) (NSCN) on January 31, 1980, by its three founders - Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S S Khaplang.
Their motto was to create sovereign Nagalim - unifying all the Naga-inhabited areas in the Northeastern region of India and northern Myanmar. However, by April 30, 1988, the NSCN split into two factions, one led by Khaplang, the other by Isak Swu and Muivah over serious differences on how to commence peace parleys with New Delhi.
The NSCN(I-M) did open up to talks in 1997, and it went on for 18 years. Finally on August 3, 2015, a framework agreement was signed which would act as a preamble to the full accord. Both New Delhi and NSCN (I-M) leaderships have remained tight-lipped on the agreement, leaving the Naga tribes across the North East and their neighbouring states to speculate and urge for details.
On July 27, the Nagaland Legislative Assembly passed a resolution on the Naga political issue. It was tabled in the Assembly after the legislature held several rounds of discussions with the civil society groups. The resolution reiterated the earlier decisions of the Assembly demanding integration of all Naga-inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella. It also demanded that the ceasefire agreement be resumed and that the Centre withdraw the declaration of the whole of Nagaland state as a disturbed area under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
“The political process of peace building has definitely gone ahead with this framework agreement. There is a feeling that both New Delhi and NSCN (I-M) want this deal to succeed and thus, they are very cautious. People in Nagaland are worried if all their core issues, raised through the Assembly resolution, will be addressed in the accord. If this accord only benefits NSCN (I-M), people will reject it,” said an editor of a noted Nagaland daily.
The North East has seen several peace accords, with different ethnic militant groups in the region and not many have succeeded. Only the Mizo peace accord had been able to usher in long-drawn peace.
It seems the framework agreement must have come because the NSCN (I-M) climbed down from core call of a “Sovereign Nagalim”. Apparently, its leadership has agreed to workout a deal within the permissible limits of the constitution through the new interlocutor R N Ravi, head of the joint intelligence committee and an old North East hand.
But in doing so, it has definitely opened up fault lines in the region. The big question is, will the outfit climb down from the other core demand - the creation of Greater Nagalim - by merging the Naga-dominant areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh?
Already, the Narendra Modi government has gone into an “assurance mode” claiming that no redrawing of state boundaries will be done. In fact, the states concerned – Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh – have raised objection in this regard.
Also, all these states are Congress-ruled, so the going will not be easy for the Centre on the issue. “The NSCN (I-M) has preached the Naga people to live the dream of a day when all Nagas across the region will live together. If now they themselves kill this dream, it will be very damaging,” says young activist Abo Yiki.
The latest peace pact will pave the way for many others in the pipeline in the North East. The prominent will be the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) peace deal. Sources say the negotiations with the pro-talk faction of ULFA are in an advanced stage. A peace accord with the ULFA along with the Naga agreement might change the conflict discourse in the restive region.
Both the NSCN (I-M) and the ULFA had been patronising smaller ethnic militant groups, and with them getting disbanded, it might help in reducing the tendency of taking up arms. But it is easier said than done. The NSCN has split into several factions in the last two decades. The prominent one is the NSCN (Khaplang) led by Burmese Naga S S Khaplang. But the Khaplang unit itself has seen two major splits in the past five years though he still has both Indian and Burmese Naga cadres with him.
Khaplang himself had signed a peace deal with the Myanmar government in 2012 but broke the ceasefire agreement with New Delhi in March 2015. Along with the Paresh Barua faction of ULFA, Khaplang has also formed a joint platform of all the ethnic militant groups of south-west Asia, a move that watchers believe has a strong Chinese backing. In this way, Khaplang is also trying to take the Naga issue beyond India and Myanmar.
“A solution to the Naga problem has international ramifications besides local impacts. New Delhi has to balance both. For a lasting solution, other factions will have to be spoken to, the larger Naga society will also need to take part,” said Rosemary Dzuvichu, the advisor to Naga Mothers Association.
The granting of provision of article 371A of the Constitution, forming a Pan-Naga Council without any territorial limits and raising Indian Reserve Battalions for the surrendered NSCN (I-M) cadres, will be of some relief. But if both the government and the Naga leadership fail to include what people of Nagaland wish, a successful accord will remain a distant dream.
The Naga Struggle
1918: Naga Club formed in Kohima.
1929: Submitted memorandum to Simon Commission to exclude Nagas from any constitutional framework of India.
1940s: Under A Z Phizo's leadership, Naga movement gained momentum.
1946: Naga Club becomes Naga National Council (NNC)
Aug 14, 1947: NNC declares independence
1948: Phizo arrested on charges of rebellion
1952: Phizo-Nehru talks fail
1956: Phizo creates underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and Naga Federal Army (NFA)
1956: New Delhi sends Army to crush insurgency in the (then) Naga Hills District of Assam; Phizo escapes to (then) East Pakistan in December
1958: Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act enacted for Naga Hills District
Dec 1, 1963: Nagaland attains statehood
1975: Shillong Accord signed. Several Nagas oppose it
1980: NSCN formed to establish a Sovereign State
by unifying all the Naga-inhabited areas in the North East of India and Northern Burma. Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S S Khaplang main leaders. Forms The People Republic of Nagaland (Nagalim).
1988: Split in NSCN. Khaplang forms NSCN(K) while Swu and Muivah form NSCN(IM). Clashes follow.
1997: Ceasefire with NSCN(IM)
Aug 2015: Agreement with NSCN(IM) and Govt of India
“Unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other. It is a legacy of the British Rule. The colonial rulers had, by design, kept the Nagas isolated and insulated. They propagated terrible myths about Nagas in the rest of the country. They also spread negative ideas about the rest of India amongst Naga people. It is one of the tragedies of Independent India that we have lived with this legacy.”
*Narendra Modi on Aug 3, 2015 announcing the accord
“The government and the Nagas are entering a new relationship.
Beginning from now, challenges will be great.”
*Th Muivah, General Secretary, NSCN(IM)
How NSCN (IM) operates?
1. The NSCN-IM primarily consists of Tangkhul Nagas who are in a majority in parts of Nagaland and the hills of Manipur. Its influence inside Manipur is restricted to the four districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong. The outfit has also presence in five other Districts of Nagaland besides the Naga-inhabited areas of North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam and some parts of Arunanchal Pradesh.
2. General Secretary Muivah and Chairman Swu also formed a military wing — the Naga Army, comprising one brigade and six battalions. There are also several ‘town commands’ and specialised mobile groups.
3. The NSCN-IM has divided its area of influence into 11 regions, which are organised primarily on tribal considerations. In many areas, it runs a parallel government. There are four major ‘Ministries’ – defence, home, finance and foreign – besides others five others. The most prominent among the Ministries is the ‘Home ministry’, which seeks to replace the State government machinery.
4. The outfit has also established a government-in-exile called the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland (GPRN) which interacts with formal and non-formal world bodies and media. The GPRN sends emissaries abroad to garner support and raise funds for the Naga cause.
5. It has an estimated 4,500-strong cadre base. It is supported by a section of other tribes Aos, Semas, Zeilangs, Anals, Maos and Manipur-based Tangkhul Nagas.
6. The NSCN (IM) has been passing its annual budget to the tune of Rs 200 million to Rs 250 million.
7. Over the years, the NSCN-IM has developed extensive linkages both within India and outside, and has also been receiving substantial assistance from neighbouring countries. The form of this assistance ranges from supply of arms and ammunition and other logistical support, to provision of safe havens, camping and training facilities.
8. The outfit had also opened up contacts with international organisations like the UN Human Rights Organisation in Geneva, Unrepresented Nations People’s Organisation (UNPO) at The Hague and the UN Working Group on Indigenous People (UNWGIP).
9. The NSCN (IM) has a group of its strong supporters in Thailand. Most of them operate front companies – mainly in travel and tourism, real estate and toy manufacture. The NSCN also has a large number of bank accounts in Thailand, Bangladesh and Myanmar.