Context: Naga Peace Accord, 2015 is yet to finalise, but containing Northeast insurgency requires a diverse and broad-based approach.
Naga Peace Accord/ Framework Agreement:
- The agreement was signed in 2015 between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issak-Muivah) NSCN(I-M).
- The content of the agreement has not been disclosed but it contains the broad principles that would guide the future deliberations between the Government of India and NSCN (IM).
- Two aspects of the agreement were made public:
- Acceptance of the “uniqueness of Naga history and culture” by the Indian Government
- The acceptance of the primacy of the Indian Constitution by the NSCN-IM.
- The NSCN-IM accepting the “primacy of the Indian Constitution” is a new development.
- Earlier its objective was to establish an independent sovereign state for the Naga people but now the demand is limited to creation of a Greater Nagalim by integrating the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
- Shillong Accord, 1975: Under the accord, Naga National Council (NNC) led by AngamiZapuPhizo, accepted Indian Constitution.
- NSCN, 1980:Maoist guerrilla leaders IsakChisiSwu, ThuingalengMuivah and S SKhaplangcreated NSCN in 1980 to oppose the decision of NNC to accept the Indian Constitution.
- Split between groups, 1988: Following differences between the top leaders, the group split into the NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K, each accusing the other of undermining Naga interests.
- NSCN (IM):After Phizo’s death in 1991, the NSCN-IM came to be recognised as the dominant voice of Naga assertion.
- Ceasefire agreement, 1997: NSCN-IM and Indian government signed a ceasefire agreement and entered into a peace process to resolve the conflict but even until today, fourteen years later, the ‘solution’ remains elusive. The NSCN-K also entered into a truce with government in 2001, but has not begun formal talks yet, and is supposedly based in Myanmar.
- Framework agreement, 2015:It contains that:
- Government recognizes the uniqueness of the Naga history and some special arrangements will have to be made for the Nagas, guaranteed under Article 371A of the Constitution.
- As per the report, Nagas had now reached a common understanding with the government that “boundaries of the States will not be touched” and “some special arrangements would be made for the Nagas, wherever they are.” (Article 371A accords special status to Nagas)
- Though the government was moving forward with NSCN (IM), the integration, of the other relatively smaller but important armed groupswith the peace talks, like NSCN(K), was a challenge. NSCN (IM) had threatened to pull out from the talks if any other group was engaged by the government.
Significance of the agreement:
- Sovereignty clause abdicated:For the first time,NSCN(IM) has expunged its demand of attaining sovereignty for Nagas from Indian state.
- Shift to peaceful path to conflict resolution:The agreement is a shift from violence as a preferred method of achieving aims to peaceful dislogue as the Naga groups are regularly holding consultations withGovernment Interlocutor, R. N. Ravi on arriving at a settlement.
- Mutual co-existence: Framework Agreement will give the Nagas maximum sovereign power to grow into a developed political people and it will also strengthen the security of India.
- Increased receptivity for Indian government: The agreement proves the government’s resolve of resolving the crisis as per the aspirations of Nagas and would generate more trust among Nagas for Indian state.
Criticisms of the Framework agreement:
- No breakthrough: The agreement has not been given the due importance:
- The agreement has become another paper proposal between government and Naga groups as there is no progress since it was signed three years ago.
- Centre signed a preamble in November 2017 with six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) to hold further discussions to find a solution to the long-standing Naga issue. However, it is not clear how long it will take to get all the factions on the same page.
- Secretive agreement: The exact contours of the agreement have not been disclosed by the government, which has made other rebel groups restive and more active in the region, like increased attacks on Indian military establishments.
- Failed to get in line NSCN(IM): NSCN-IM operates the largest extortion network in Nagaland , running parallel government and is the biggest supplier of arms in the Northeast. But the agreement has failed to contain the illegal activities of NSCN(IM).
- Naga autonomy not viable:NSCN(IM) has retained the demand of complete autonomy to Nagas in other states whichis a threat to the territorial integrity ofAssam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
- Furore in Manipur:Naga insurgency is linked with insurgency in Manipur, where Naga rebels were active participants in civil unrest of 2016. The talk of “special arrangement for Nagas” has emboldened other factions in Manipur, who expect similar concessions by the government.
- Agreement not representative:The agreement has been signed by the government with NSCN(IM), keeping other important stakeholders, like NSCN(K) and tribes of Eastern Nagalandwhich demand a separate Frontier State,out of the loop,which raises doubts on the efficacy of the 2015 agreement.
- Excludes important issues: The agreement fails to touch some critical issues like demand of Nagas for a separate ‘flag’, non-codification of Naga customary law which promotes exploitation of local Nagas by Naga political groups and development deficit in Naga inhabited areas.
Naga insurgency issue is not a two-party binary and is not just limited to exercise of political control over Naga inhabited areas. It needs an all comprehensive approach by the government which includes:
- Wider representation: Initiation of wider dialogue process including all Naga stakeholders and factions, including civil society groups. Representatives of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal, Myanmarand factions operating in these regions must be a part of fact finding team.
- Confidence building: Apart from dialogue, government should initiate confidence building measures through infrastructure creation in the form of health, education and employment generation programmes to address the development deficit in Northeast.
- Safeguards for locals: The government’s responsibility extends to safeguarding interests of locals against exploitation by Naga factions. The government must get the clause of codification of Naga customary law within a stipulated time frame included in the agreement.
- Autonomous Councils in Naga areas:
- Maximum autonomy may be accorded in ethnic, cultural and developmental realms to autonomous councils for all Naga areas in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and even Assam, through suitable amendment to the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
- Adequate fiscal powers should be devolved to such councils under final Naga settlement, with arrangements for direct transfer of funds to autonomous councils for Naga areas, a system distinct from current policies where transfers are made through state budgets.
- Statutory pan-Naga Hoho: A tribal cultural collective body in the form of a pan-Naga Hoho, as the supreme advisory body on Naga cultural matters, could be constituted under an act of parliament. This body would take care of the interests of the Nagas of Nagaland as well of Nagas living elsewhere in the country.
- Securing the Northeast borders: Naga rebels have secured a safe refuge in cross border areas of Myanmar from where they carry out hit and run operations, hence the borders should be effectively guarded or sealed in order to drive the rebels at the negotiation table.
- Mainstreaming rebels: Disarming rebels with some being absorbed in the state forces after re-training, and the rest being skilled for civil professions with state support could be adopted. Absorption of the re-trained insurgent cadres in the Assam Rifles, a Central force manned by different tribals, is a viable option.
Source : https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nagaland-insurgency-peace-accord-pm-modi-5545506/