Naga accord: Will it bring peace to the northeast?
The recently signed Naga accord – an agreement between India and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), has been hailed as historic and is expected to significantly improve the insurgency
<g data-gr-id="110">conflict</g> in Nagaland.
Hopefully, the accord will be a significant step in advancing Modi’s development agenda in the northeast. But let us look at the history of the Nagaland insurgency which has existed even for many decades.
Naga Independence Movement
The Nagas comprise some 17 major tribes and over 20 sub-tribes. Some of the major tribes include Ao, Angami, Sema, Lotha, Tangkhul, Konyak, Rengma, and Mao. Each tribe and sub-tribe <g data-gr-id="156">speaks</g> a different <g data-gr-id="157">language,</g> though each of these belongs to the <g data-gr-id="147">Tibeto</g>-Burmese group of languages.
Nagaland’s independence movement started way back in <g data-gr-id="155"><g data-gr-id="154">1900s</g>,</g> when an organisation “Naga Club” was established in Kohima. Following it, a memorandum was submitted before the Simon Commission, who demanded that Naga people should not be included in the proposed British constitutional policies in India. In 1946, the Naga Club was renamed as the Naga National Council (NNC), a separatist organisation.
A few months before India’s independence, the Indian government rejected NNC’s demand of having electorates, which led them to revolt. Before India gained independence, NNC declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947. In 1949, <g data-gr-id="118">Phizo</g> became the NNC which increased its inclination towards seeking independence from India.
In February 1950, the NNC proposed a plebiscite to take a strong decision on the issue of Naga sovereignty, which was severely condemned by the Indian government. In 1951, the plebiscite was held and NNC claimed that 99 per cent Nagas wanted independence. However, the claims of the referendum were questioned, because who exactly participated in the referendum wasn’t clear. With an objective to fight for Naga independence at any cost, Phizo formed the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA), in response to which the Indian government sent the army to defeat them. However, <g data-gr-id="123">Phizo</g> managed to escape and established links with China and Pakistan.
In 1963, Nagaland was finally given statehood. But that did not deter NNC from their objective. The tussle between NNC and the Indian government continued for many years, <g data-gr-id="140">post</g> which, an all-out operation was launched against them, which brought NNC down to its knees and they agreed for negotiations.
The historic agreement was signed at on 11 November 1975. The following points were agreed upon:
• The representatives of the underground organisations conveyed their decision, of their own volition, to accept, without condition, the Constitution of India.
• It was agreed that the arms, now underground, would be brought out and deposited at appointed places. Details for giving <g data-gr-id="141">effect</g> of this agreement will be worked out between them and representatives of the Government, the security forces, and members of the Liaison Committee.
• It was agreed that the representatives of the underground organisations should have reasonable time to formulate other issues for discussion for final settlement. Post the Shillong Accord, a supplementary agreement was signed on January 5, 1976, which laid out guidelines for the implementation of Clause 2 of the Shillong Accord:
• It was decided that the collection of arms, initially at collection centres, would commence as early as possible, and will be completed by 25 <g data-gr-id="130">January,</g> 1976. Initial places of collection to be decided through discussion between Commissioner, representatives of underground organisations and the members of the Liasion Committee
• Once all arms are collected, these will be handed over to Peace Council team at the respective places of collection
• Peace Council team will arrange to transport the arms from collection centres to <g data-gr-id="115">Chedema</g> peace camp and arrange guards, etc., for safe custody of arms
• Similar arrangement at agreed place/places will be made in Manipur with the concurrence of the Manipur government
• The underground may stay at peace camps to be established at suitable places, and their maintenance will be arranged only by the Peace Council. Any voluntary contribution from any source will be made to the Peace Council who will utilise the fund according to necessity
History of National Socialist Council of Nagaland
However, some members led by Thuingaleng Muivah refused to accept the Shillong Accord. He, along with Isak Chisi Swu and SS Khaplang, formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980.
NSCN was supported by Pakistan and ISI, who provided arms and finances. There are even reports of Chinese support.
In 1988, following disagreements on the basis of Konyak and Tangkhul clans, NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) after a violent clash. The Konyaks formed the NSCN-K (Khaplang) under the leadership of Khole Konyak and <g data-gr-id="146">S S</g> Khaplang, while the Tangkhul faction, the NSCN-IM (Isak-Muivah), was led by Isak Chisi Swu and T Muivah. In 1997, NSCN (IM) faction declared a truce and signed a ceasefire on 31 <g data-gr-id="144">July,</g> 1997 and it was recognised as the only legitimate Naga group by the Indian government.
Currently, NSCN (K) runs a government-in-exile called the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland, NSCN (K). The headquarters the GPRN and NSCN (K) is located in Eastern Nagaland /Myanmar (No clarity on the border boundaries). <g data-gr-id="136">Kitovi</g> Zhimomi (General Secretary, NSCN (K)) is the self-declared Prime minister of GPRN.
Demand for Greater Nagalim
Every Naga separatist organisation has voiced its demand for a Greater Nagalim, which will comprise of all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas, along with Nagaland, which include several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, and a section of neighbouring Myanmar as well. States such as Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have always been cautious in their approach towards the issue as it might affect their territories. Even the Nagaland state assembly has endorsed the “Greater Nagalim” demand – “Integration of all Naga-inhabited contiguous areas under one administrative umbrella” in December 1964, August 1970, September 1994, December 2003 and July 2015.
Reactions of various leaders
While the recent accord has obviously been hailed by BJP leaders and their supporters, there have been scathing and cautionary reactions otherwise.
“Nobody has even bothered to brief them, perhaps not in detail, but in a wide sense. After all, our chief ministers are directly affected, be it Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh or Assam. So, what do I take from this? From <g data-gr-id="223">this</g> I take that this government is arrogant. This government keeps on saying that everybody has to be taken along and that they will hold consultations with all, will take the views of all chief ministers. Then what happened? Their arrogance is now even clearer than before,” said Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
“If the agreement affects Manipur’s territorial integrity, the BJP government at the Centre would bear the responsibility for the consequences,” said, Congress MLA from Manipur N Biren Singh.
Arunachal Pradesh CM Nabam Tuki tweeted that “He welcomed the initiative of the Centre to bring a peaceful solution to the prolonged Naga political issue”. Unfortunately, he deleted his tweet later, which led to some outrage on social media.
How old is the Naga political issue?
The British annexed Assam in 1826, and in 1881, the Naga Hills too became part of British India. The first sign of Naga resistance was seen in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which told the Simon Commission in 1929 “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”. In 1946 came the Naga National Council (NNC), which, under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947. The NNC resolved to establish a “sovereign Naga state” and conducted a “referendum” in 1951, in which “99 per cent” supported an “independent” Nagaland.
When did the peace efforts start?
Almost simultaneously with the resistance. On June 29, 1947, Assam Governor Sir Akbar <g data-gr-id="240">Hyderi</g> signed a 9-point agreement with moderates T <g data-gr-id="241">Sakhrie</g> and <g data-gr-id="242">Aliba</g> <g data-gr-id="243">Imti</g>, which was almost immediately rejected by Phizo. The Naga Hills was upgraded to a state in 1963, by also adding the Tuensang Tract that was then part of NEFA. In April the next year, Jai Prakash Narain, Assam Chief Minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott formed a Peace <g data-gr-id="244">Mission,</g> and got the government and NNC to sign an agreement to suspend operations. But the NNC/NFG/NFA continued to indulge in violence and a counter-insurgency operation launched.
When did the NSCN come into being?
On November 11, 1975, the govt got a section of NNC leaders to sign the Shillong Accord, under which this section of NNC and NFG agreed to give up arms. A group of about 140 members led by Thuingaleng Muivah, who were at that time in China, refused to accept the Shillong Accord, and formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in 1980. Muivah also had Isak Chisi Swu and <g data-gr-id="260">S S</g> Khaplang with him. In 1988, the NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) after a violent clash. While the NNC began to fade away, and <g data-gr-id="258">Phizo</g> died in London in 1991, the NSCN (IM) came to be seen as the “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.
When did NSCN (IM) join peace talks?
Muivah, <g data-gr-id="269">Swu</g> and other top NSCN (IM) leaders escaped to Thailand in the early 1990s. While Nagaland Governor <g data-gr-id="272">M M</g> Thomas, a Church leader from Kerala, extracted the first positive response from the NSCN (IM), P V Narasimha Rao met Muivah, Swu and others in Paris on June 15, 1995. In November 1995, then MoS (Home) Rajesh Pilot met them in Bangkok. Subsequently, Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda met them in Zurich on February 3, 1997, which was followed by meetings with officers in Geneva and Bangkok. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met them in Paris on September 30, 1998.
How did PM Modi travel the last mile?
For the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, the Narendra Modi government continues from where Vajpayee left. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) northeast veteran P B Acharya is currently Nagaland Governor, and Joint Intelligence Committee chairman R N Ravi, with his IB background, is an old northeast hand. The state’s political scenario has changed, with T R <g data-gr-id="282">Zeliang’s</g> Naga People’s Front, an NDA ally, persuading all groups in the Assembly, including the Congress, to become partners in an all-party government.