Follow-up on Naga accord is a must

The Modi government’s intention to resolve the insurgency problem in the northeastern part of the country is laudable. Efforts are on and initial results have begun coming in and they are increasingly sounding positive. A historic accord has been signed with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah group) for permanent peace, ending the practice of routine renewal of ceasefire agreements. The accord has been historic in the sense that a framework agreement has been reached keeping aside all the contentious issues, including the longstanding demand for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland.

The current roots of the Naga insurgency date back to 1918 when the decision of the erstwhile colonial British rulers to keep Naga areas out of the purview of Government of India Act 1935 alienated many. Keeping this historical perspective in view, Prime Minister Narendra Modi after signing of the historic accord rightly remarked that the Naga problem is a legacy of the British rule. “The colonial rulers had, by design, kept the Nagas isolated and insulated. They propagated terrible myths about Nagas in the rest of the country. They deliberately suppressed the reality that the Nagas were an extremely evolved society. They also spread negative ideas about the rest of India amongst Naga people. This was part of the well-known policy of divide and rule of the colonial rulers,” he said. The British as part of their divide and rule policy kept a large part  of the Naga-dominated areas in Myanmar (then known as Burma) while separating it from the rest of British India in 1937.

On India gaining Independence on August 15, 1947, Naga insurgency began emerging on the scene with Naga leaders asserting their rights for an independent state under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo who operated largely from London. After <g data-gr-id="63">Phizo’s</g> death, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) took up the work left unfinished by him. In January 1980, NSCN split in bitter circumstances into two factions – one led by Khaplang called NSCN-K and the other by Isak and Muivah called NSCN (Isak-Muivah).

Khaplang hails from Myanmar and after this split he drew support from Konyak, <g data-gr-id="76">Aao</g>, Angami and other Naga tribes in Nagaland and Manipur apart from the Nagas in Myanmar. Subsequently NSCN-K suffered a split in 2010 when some Konyaks and Semas walked out and formed NSCN-Kole-<g data-gr-id="77">Kitovi</g>. Again in March 2015 <g data-gr-id="78">Khaplang’s</g> faction splintered further and the NSCN (Reformation) was formed. Thus NSCN-K became weaker as time passed and was compelled to sign a peace accord with the Myanmar government in April 2012 and joined the umbrella organization of insurgents - United National Liberation Front of West South East Asia (UNLFW) along with the United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PRPK), People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland-<g data-gr-id="79">Songbijit</g> (NDFB-S).

The signing of the peace accord with NSCN-IM is just a beginning to bring in permanent peace in the north-eastern part of the country. Let us not forget that NSCN-K is still active. On June 4, violating the peace accord, the Khaplang insurgents ambushed and killed 18 members of 6 Dogra Regiment when they were patrolling Tengnoupal-New Samtal Road in Chandel district in Manipur, about 15 km from the Myanmar border. Apart from NSCN-K, KCP and KYKL have so far claimed responsibility for the attack from across the border. Subsequently on June 9, Indian security forces conducted surgical operations against known bases of insurgents across the Myanmar border and gunned some of them down.

New Delhi needs to take up this issue of insurgents operating from Myanmar soil. Myanmar should be on board to tackle this problem. There are areas along its borders with India where Myanmar is unable to exercise its control. There are reports about Indian intelligence intercepting talks between Chinese PLA officers and Khaplang and the Chinese pressuring Myanmar for entering into a peace accord with NSCN-K. Having signed a peace accord with the NSCN-K in April 2012, Myanmar may not be willing to act against terror camps in North Sagaing region and Chin state, particularly when it is fighting with the Kokangg, Kachins and other rebel groups within its own territory.

The United Wa State Army has declared its own Wa State Government Special Administrative Region within Myanmar from January 1, <g data-gr-id="62">2009</g> and is completely under Chinese influence. Insurgents operating against India procure arms and ammunitions from the Wa State. An arms factory has been set up in this area.  However, the Myanmar government has not yet recognised this Wa State.

The Modi government has made a humble beginning in resolving the insurgency problem in the north-eastern part of the country by striking a framework accord with the NSCN-IM. Government’s Interlocutor for Naga Peace Talks, R.N. Ravi played a crucial role in garnering the collective support of the Naga community. The NSCN Chairman Isak Chishi Swu, though unwell and could not be present in the signing ceremony gave his consent and the general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah signed the accord along with RN Ravi.

 It is interesting to see the details and execution plans that are yet to be worked out and how both 
sides accommodate each other in the time to come.  In India on December 1, 1963, a separate state of Nagaland was carved out, but Nagas complain that several Naga tribes are residing outside the Nagaland state in the neighbouring Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur. NSCN-IM was demanding the creation of Greater Nagaland by integrating Naga areas of these neighbouring states. Nagaland Assembly has passed a resolution demanding integration of these areas while the state assemblies of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have passed a counter resolution asserting not to give up these areas. Therefore, the Modi government needs to work out the modalities for giving autonomy to Naga tribes without impairing the sentiments of the non-Naga population in the area.

 The government also needs to enter into similar peace accords with NSCN-K and other militant outfits. IPA
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