The Government of India on Monday signed a historic peace accord with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). Terming it as a historic occasion, which it indeed was, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that the peace accord was not the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future. For decades, the Nagas have demanded respect and dignity from the Indian State and recognition of their unique status as a people. This accord has brought them closer to the fulfillment of that dream. Under the accord, the Government of India recognised the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. As a reciprocal move, the NSCN said that it understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance.
In other words, while the Indian government agreed to recognise the ‘uniqueness’ of the Nagas, the Naga leaders also accepted the Indian Constitution. This peace accord has been a long time in the coming.
The origin of tensions between the Naga rebels and Government of India were the result of the well-known British policy of divide and rule. The Naga Hills were added to British Indian supervision in 1881. The first resistance by Nagas to imperial domination was on public display with the formation of the Naga club in 1918 which asked the Simon Commission for complete sovereignty and a return to the status quo before the arrival of the British. In 1946, the Naga National Council was formed, which declared Nagaland as an independent entity under Angami Zapu Phizo. In 1952, the underground Naga Federal Government and Naga Federal Army were formed.
In response to this the Government of India immediately enacted Armed Forces Special Powers Act in 1958. Nagaland was given statehood in 1963 and subsequently a peace accord was signed in 1964 which was ultimately abandoned in 1967 due to continuing violence by the NFA. In 1975, the Shillong Accord was signed with moderate factions of the NFA which was rejected by most of the hard-line leaders and in 1980 resulted in the formation of NSCN (split into NSCN-IM and NSCN-K due to internal conflict). A ceasefire agreement was reached with the NSCN (IM) in 1997.
The NSCN (IM) basically demands the integration into Nagaland the Naga inhabited areas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur -and thus build a Greater Nagalim state. A significant breakthrough was reached in 2012 when NSCN (IM) agreed for a resolution to the above demand within the confines of the Indian Constitution. And now it has struck a peace accord with the government, which will have far-reaching implications. There will hopefully be a decrease in the insurgency in the North-East. Political commentators expect that with this peace accord there will be a pressure on NSCN (Khaplang faction) to join the negotiating table. The details of the peace accord are not out <g data-gr-id="43">yet</g> but it can be guessed that there will be no redrawing of the boundary line of states.
As for SS Khaplang, in March this year, he abrogated the ceasefire he had signed in 2001 and is sure to oppose the accord. Security forces have been already alerted across Nagaland, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Furthermore, the government is confident of neutralising the NSCN (Khaplang), which has of late indulged in several ambushes. The details will emerge in the next few weeks, but for the moment, those who worked long and hard to achieve this major breakthrough, need to be complimented for their sagacity, wisdom and acceptance of practical reality. This has been a long road to peace and there is a long way to go.