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Peace accord with Nagas

Peace accord with Nagas

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Government signed peace accord with Nagas on August 3, but agreement still remains unclear.

Who are Nagas

Nagas are divided into various tribes,6 sub-tribes and clans with varying customs, traditions, dress, language, polity etc. Numerous Naga tribes speaking different dialects, occupying specific mountain ranges with settlements on hilltops and following an animistic religion until their recent rapid conversion to Christianity.

They had been living in relative isolation for centuries. It was only from the first quarter of the last century that they were brought into real contact with the outside world by several agencies, the most prominent of which were the British missionaries.

Start of insurgency

The Separatist Movement can be traced back to 1918, with the founding of Naga Club in Kohima by a group of erudite Nagas. The Club tendered a memorandum before the Simon Commission which demanded for exclusion of Nagas from the proposed constitutional reform in British administration in India.

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, resulting in his arrest in 1948 on the charges of instigating a rebellion.

Why insurgency started after independence

Used to their own way of life, the tribals looked specially at the overtures of the Central government. The slogan of economic upliftment did not appeal to the people who were leading a rather abstemious life. Attempt to draw them into the mainstream were deemed as an infringement of their independence and culture. This approach aggravated the situation and the locals began to see the national integration moves as forced Indianisation and they started fearing loss of their distinct identity. The outcome of such apprehensions was unrest and disturbance, which then evolved into insurgency.

Peace Accords

On June 27-28, 1947 an agreement was signed between the NNC and then Governor of Assam, Sir Akbar Hydari, in which the Nagas’ right to develop themselves freely was recognized. However, Clause 9 of the agreement created divisions as it stated that after a period of 10 years the NNC will be asked whether the agreement be extended or a new agreement arrived at.

The NNC interpreted this to mean the attainment of sovereignty by the Nagas whereas the Government of India interpreted it as the signing of a new arrangement within the Indian Union. Which later began the cause of conflict.

In 1960, a Sixteen Point Agreement was signed between members of the Naga People’s Congress and the Government of India as part of which a new state of Nagaland was created in 1963. But even this failed to quell the movement as a majority of Naga inhabited areas was left outside the new state. In 1964, a Nagaland Peace Mission was formed which signed a ceasefire with Phizo, only to last till 1968.

In 1975, the Shillong Accord was signed in which the NNC agreed to give up arms and accept the Indian Constitution. Muivah and Swu, who were then NNC members, revolted by terming the Accord as a ‘sell out’ on the Naga sovereignty demand and went on to form the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980 with S. S. Khaplang. In 1988, the NSCN split due to leadership differences, into the NSCN (IM) and the NSCN (K).

NSCN (IM) then emerged as the major insurgent group and succeeded in integrating rival Naga ethnic groups in the name of “Greater Nagalism”

What is Greater Nagalism

“Greater Nagalim” comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with Nagaland. That included several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, as also a large tract of Myanmar. The map of “Greater Nagalim” has about 1,20,000 sq km, while the state of Nagaland consists of 16,527 sq km. The claims have always kept Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh wary of a peace settlement that might affect their territories. The Nagaland Assembly has endorsed the ‘Greater Nagalim’ demand — “Integration of all Naga-inhabited contiguous areas under one administrative umbrella”.

Why recent peace accord is important

The Naga Peace Accord, a framework agreement as it has been termed, signed between the National Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and the Government of India on August 3 is significant for several reasons.

Firstly, it shows the flexibility and realism of the NSCN (IM) in terms of the willingness to alter goals, from complete sovereignty and Greater Nagalim to acceptance of the constitutional framework albeit with a provision for the grant of greater autonomy to Naga inhabited areas outside of Nagaland through the establishment of autonomous district councils.

Second, the signing of the accord at this moment in time discloses that the platform of social support for the NSCN (IM) comprising of Naga civil society groups are insistent on a peaceful path to conflict resolution.

Third, the leaders of the NSCN (IM), Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu (who has been unwell for some time now), have been forthcoming since 2011 to sign a framework agreement that pledges to preserve the culture, history and traditions of the Nagas and grants greater autonomy to Naga inhabited areas outside of Nagaland.

Question:

Government negotiations with Nagas has been going on since independence, Examine the steps government have taken till now and what are the hurdles in settling the Naga issue?

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