The status of the Naga peace talks

News: The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released recently said that the Isak-Muivah faction of the National
Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was involved in 44% of insurgency-related incidents in Nagaland in 2020.

The Union government had, in 2015, signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM to find a solution to the Naga political issue.

The negotiations are yet to be concluded.

Why did Naga insurgency begin?

The term ‘Naga’ was created by the British for administrative convenience to refer to a group of tribes with similar origins but distinct cultures, dialects, and customs.

  • The Naga tribes are accumulated in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Myanmar.

Residing in the Naga hills of Assam during the advent of the British and the annexation of Assam in 1820, the Nagas did not consider themselves a part of British India.

The British adopted a way of governance over the Nagas that involved keeping in place their traditional ways of life, customs, and laws while putting British administrators at the top.

At the time of the withdrawal of the British, insecurity grew among the Naga tribes about the future of their cultural autonomy after India’s independence, which was accompanied by the fear of the entry of “plains people” or “outsiders” into their territory.

  • These gave rise to the formation of the Naga Hills District Tribal Council in 1945, which was renamed the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946.

Amid uncertainties over the post-independence future of the Nagas, a section of the NNC, led by Naga leader A.Z. Phizo declared the independence of the Nagas on August 14, 1947, a day before India’s declaration.

– The underground insurgency began in the early 1950s when Mr. Phizo founded the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and its armed wing, the Naga Federal Army (NFA).

The Central Government sent the insurgency and imposed the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is still in place in parts of Nagaland.

Unlike other groups in the northeast which were accepting some form of autonomy under the Constitution, Nagas rejected this in favour of sovereignty.

Some leaders among the NNC formed their own group to hold discussions with the government, leading to the formation of the State of Nagaland in 1963. This, however, did not satisfy many in the NNC and NFG, who, following years of negotiations with the government, eventually signed the Shillong Accord of 1975, agreeing to surrender arms and accept the Constitution.

When did the NSCN came into the picture?

This signing of the Shillong Accord was not agreeable with many top leaders of the NNC and those operating from Myanmar as the agreement did not address the issue of Naga sovereignty and coerced them to accept the Constitution.

Three NNC leaders — Thuingaleng Muivah of the Tangkhul Naga tribe of Manipur’s Ukhrul district, Isak Chishi Swu of the Sema tribe, and S. S. Khaplang from Myanmar’s Hemis tribe, formed the National Socialist Council Of Nagaland (NSCN) to continue the armed movement.

The motto of the NSCN was to create a People’s Republic of Nagaland free of Indian rule.

In 1988, after years of infighting and violent clashes, the NSC split intwo two groups – a) One, led by Mr. Muiwah and Swu called the NSCN-IM and the other, b) Second, led by Mr. Khaplang called the NSCN-K.

The NSCN-IM demanded and continues to demand ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim — it wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

The NSCN-IM has now grown to became the most powerful insurgent group, also playing a role in the creation of smaller groups in other States.

Where do peace talks stand now?

In 1997, the Government of India got the NSCN-IM to sign a ceasefire agreement to begin the holding of talks with the aim of signing a Naga Peace Accord. After this ceasefire, there have been over a hundred rounds of talks.

In 2015, it signed a Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM), the first step towards an actual Peace Accord.

In 2020, the NSCN-IM accused the Centre’s interlocutor, Mr Ravi, of tweaking the agreement to mislead other Naga groups. The NSCN-IM continued to demand a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas and the creation of Nagalim, which it claimed was agreed upon in the Agreement.

On 19th April 2022, AK Mishra, the newly appointed interlocutor, visited the NSCN-IM’s camp in Dimapur to hold closed-door talks but issues over the Naga flag and constitution remain to be ironed out.

Source: This post is based on the article “The status of the Naga peace talks” published in The Hindu on 6th May 22.

Print Friendly and PDF