Can the Naga treaty end insurgency?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hailed the peace accord, signed in New Delhi on Monday between the leaders of the NSCN (IM) and the Centre, as being a “landmark” one. What is intriguing, however, is that the details of the peace treaty have not been made public but instead kept a closely-guarded secret. The words that the Prime Minister conveyed to the Naga leaders were instructive in this regard. One key stanza stands out, “we will also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige” it seems reasonable to presume that a substantive degree of autonomy has been given to the Nagas, because a ‘partnership’ can be entered into only by two distinct bodies, each retaining its separate identity. But how substantively will it affect the Naga peace process? The Nagaland insurgency has been both a law-and-order and a political problem which has persisted for the last sixty-two years, ever since the rebel Naga leader, Angami Zapu Phizo raised the banner of revolt against India demanding sovereignty for the Nagas way back in 1953.
Those who are fully acquainted with the developments during those momentous days know that the high-handed attitude of the then Chief Minister of Assam, Bishnuram Medhi, was largely responsible for Phizo giving up the path of negotiations and taking to armed struggle. In 1953, Phizo came to Shillong with a large delegation to meet Medhi and discuss the Nagas’ demand with him. After waiting for a few days at Shillong for an audience with the Chief Minister who refused to meet him, Phizo went back to Kohima and soon raised the banner of revolt. Phizo’s party, the Angami-dominated Naga National Council or NNC, signed the ‘Shillong Accord’ in 1975. It included a clause that the rebels would surrender their arms. This led to a split in the NNC and ten years later in 1985, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) led by Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah was born. The leadership of the rebels passed from the hands of the Angamis to other tribes. Three years later, the NSCN suffered a split when Shangwang Khaplang broke away from Swu and Muivah. This was followed by a fierce armed battle between the two sides in which many were killed. Two factions of the NSCN came into being, the NSCN (I-M) and the NSCN (K).
In July, 1997, the NSCN (IM) signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre. It stipulated that the IM would not engage in armed action and the security forces would not operate against them. The ceasefire agreement has been periodically extended since then. The armed men of the IM faction are all cooped up at a ‘designated camp’ at Hebron, close to the Dimapur town. For all practical purposes, this faction has long ceased to be a source of trouble for the Centre. It is with this faction that the Centre has now concluded a peace deal. The threat to peace now comes from the Khaplang faction. The Centre had a ceasefire agreement with this faction since 2001. It was an uneasy truce. However in late March this year, the representatives of the Khaplang faction walked out of a meeting with those of the Centre at Dimapur and reiterated their resolve to renew insurgency for Naga sovereignty. On June 4 came the deadly attack on an army convoy in Chandel district of Manipur in which eighteen army personnel were killed. The Centre retaliated within a few days by mounting an aerial attack and busting NSCN (K) camps in adjoining areas of Myanmar.
SS Khaplang is a Hemi Naga who lives on both sides of the Indo-Myanmar border rallying support from both these bases. There is some uncertainty over which side of the border Khaplang was born on. That is, whether his nationality is Indian or Myanmarese. Khaplang is believed to be working in close cooperation with the Chinese and reportedly has a house in the Yunnan province of China adjoining Myanmar. The Naga people have two major demands. The first, of course, was secession from India and full sovereignty for the Nagas. The second was unification of Naga areas in India and Myanmar into one composite Naga State which they would call as Nagalim. While they are now reconciled to the fact that no territory can be gained from Myanmar, they insist on the integration of all Naga areas in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh into Nagalim. This has been fiercely opposed by all the States concerned.
As the details of the peace treaty with the NSCN (IM) have not been made public, it is not known what agreement has been reached on this thorny issue. The immediate reaction of the Manipur Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam, on hearing of the peace treaty was “We welcome any peace accord but it should not be against the interest of Manipur. I believe the Government of India will not try to solve one problem and create multiple problems.” So long as the full text of the treaty is not made public, doubts and fears will continue to prevail among all concerned. IPA