Naga Peace Accord: Dilemma for the Rest of India’s northeast
8th Oct, 2019
The NSCN (IM), the largest Naga group, is unwilling to sign an accord with the Centre without a separate Naga flag and constitution.
Who are Naga’s?
‘Naga’ is a generic term which refers to a group of over 30 tribes inhabiting not only the boundaries along and within Nagaland, but also some hilly regions of the adjoining states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, and some parts of the bordering nation, Myanmar.
History of Naga resurgence:
- Inner Line Permit: The British were not keen to extend their empire into the Naga Hills due to the hostile attitude of the hill tribes, who always took the British as an occupation force out to control the freedom of the Nagas and interfere with their distinct cultural identity. In the given situation, the British found it convenient to protect them with the Inner Line Permits.
- Thereafter, the spread of Christianity and establishment of modern political, administrative, and educational institutions led to an educated, elite class amongst the Nagas.
- In 1918, Nagas, with the help of the British officials, formed the Naga Club.
- In 1935, the then Government of India Act designated the Naga Hill districts as “excluded areas” wherein the Nagas could continue to maintain their traditions, culture and lifestyle with little interference from the federal or provincial governments. This ultimately led to the formation of the Naga National Council in 1946.
- A nine-Point Agreement was signed in June 1947 between the Naga leaders and Akbar Hydari, then Governor of Assam, wherein it was agreed that, ten years after the signing of the agreement, the Nagas would be free to decide their own future.
- The Nagas even boycotted the first general elections of independent India in 1952 on expected lines.
- In 1956, the Naga militants, under the leadership of Phizo, created a secret government known as the Naga Federal Government (NFG) with around 1,500 armed guerrilla fighters.
- This started the so-called ‘freedom struggle for Greater Nagaland better known as ‘Nagalim’.
- The Indian government, in a reactive approach, first, sent in the Army to control insurrections and, subsequently, Nagaland was given the status of an Indian state in 1962, with the existing boundaries of the state.
Due to this kind of resurgence the Naga insurgency is referred as the mother of all insurgencies in the north-eastern states.
Why the complexities of the Nagaland problem have kept peace at bay for a long time?
- The government itself never had a long-term vision to delve into this issue in an integrated manner. The governments have been buying time to tire out and disintegrate the various factions of the Naga movement.
- Wrong approach of government: All the governments of the day have attempted to solve the problem in isolation, taking one north-eastern state at a time, not realising that while each of the respective state’s insurgency had its own character and start point.
- State politics:
- The Indian Constitution provides for a federal structure, however, when the Centre intervenes with additional security forces, including the Army, the onus shifts from the state to the central government. This has been the one single factor that has allowed the states to play politics with the peace processes in the state and shift the blame for the failure on the Centre, thus, causing inordinate delays in finding peace in the region time and again.
- In the negotiations for the peace processes, the states seem to have distanced themselves from success or failure, denying their own stakes in normalising the situation.
- Extension of ceasefire agreements: A number of ceasefire agreements that were once worked out with the various insurgent groups, continue to get extended indefinitely, thereby chasing the now seemingly elusive peace.
What is Naga Peace accord 2015?
- It is the accord signed in August 2015 by the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to end the insurgency.
- The framework agreement is based on the "unique" history of Nagas and recognising the universal principle that in a democracy sovereignty lies with the people.
- NSCN given up its demand for ‘Greater Nagaland’ and vowed allegiance to the constitution of India.
- The details of the accord are yet to come in public domain.
Main challenges to the Naga Naga Peace accord 2015:
- Defining of Greater Nagaland, called ‘Nagalim’.
- Integration of adjoining Naga inhibited areas.
- Unity amongst all Naga groups, despite the NSCN (IM) being the strongest and the lead group.
- Building up of greater confidence among the Naga groups, the state government and the Centre.
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN):
- It is a Naga nationalist separatist group operating mainly in Northeast India, with minor activities in northwest Myanmar (Burma).
- The main goal of the organisation is to establish a sovereign Naga state, "Nagalim”.
- There are two major factions of NSCN
- NSCN (K), led by S. S. Khaplang.
- NSCN (I-M), led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah.
What should be the government’s Policy Prescription and Action Plan?
- Surrendering arms and weapons as a pre-condition for peace talks.
- No suspension of operations by the security forces supported by subsistence allowance by the government.
- A comprehensive and thought through rehabilitation package that must cater to, and be in sync with, the ground realities and not comprise half-baked politically-expedient media grabbing shows.
- Enhancing the capacity and capabilities of the state security apparatus, including state armed police forces to deal with these groups so that the Army is pulled out of all these states, and also relieves the states from the AFSPA.
- Develop these states as viable self-sustaining economic entities and not keep them dependent entirely upon central aid packages to the tune of over 90 percent dependency, as is the case currently.
- There is a need to follow a comprehensive and all-inclusive developmental model for these states with better accountability of the ‘fund flow,’ since large amounts of funds are allotted by the central government due to the financial non-viability of these states.
- Connectivity to the mainland and a greater push for development of the border areas will go a long way in ensuring better assimilation of the northeast and its people.
- Government need to engage more with the India’s immediate neighbours, particularly Bhutan and Bangladesh.
- It needs to be accepted that regardless of the government in power at the Centre, the consistent Indian policy for conflict resolution in the northeast has been one of buying time through talks. Most of these talks have lacked good governance models.
- An equally pressing reality is that New Delhi, for decades, has not really known the ground realities of the northeast despite its best efforts – resulting in the absence of economic viability combining with an all-inclusive model of development for this region. A huge amount of infrastructure, particularly road connectivity and investments, especially in the power sector are the needs of the hour.