Status of Naga Peace Accord
Polity & Governance
24th Jan, 2019
- The historic peace accord with Naga armed groups appears to have hit a dead-end with little progress in the talks between the Central government and the Nagas.
- The talks have not seen any progress for almost a year as the Nagas have refused to change their views on ‘Church’ and ‘separate flag’. Naga groups are demanding a separate Naga flag.
- The Church has been arguing that symbols are integral to the identity of the Nagas and that Naga identity would not be safe without them.
Background of Naga Peace Accord
- The 2015 agreement was signed between the Centre and the Naga groups led by National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) after the latter agreed to give up its long-standing demand for sovereignty.
- There was a broad understanding on a settlement within the Indian constitutional framework, with due regard to the uniqueness of Naga history and tradition.
NSCN and its Demands:
- Creation: Maoist guerrilla leaders Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S S Khaplang had created the NSCN in 1980 to oppose the decision of the Naga National Council (NNC) to accept the Indian Constitution — the 1975 Shillong Accord was signed by Angami Zapu Phizo-led NNC.
- After differences between the top leaders, the group split into the NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K, which have been accusing each other of undermining Naga interests.
- After Phizo’s death in 1991, the NSCN-IM came to be recognised as the dominant voice of Naga assertion.
- In 1997, the NSCN-IM agreed to a ceasefire which led to the start of almost two decades of peace talks with the Indian government.
- The process, however, hit a roadblock when the group insisted on a separate flag as well as the inclusion of all Naga-inhabited areas in one administrative apparatus.
- Greater Nagalim: In the NSCN-IM’s scheme of things, “Greater Nagalim” consists of present Nagaland and all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas, which includes many districts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, and most interestingly, a part of neighbouring Myanmar.
- While the area of Nagaland is approximately 16,500 sq km, the geographical spread of “Greater Nagalim” is sprawled over 1,20,000 sq km, evoking apprehensions and resentment among people of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal due to threat to the territorial integrity of their states.
Issues faced by people due to insurgent group in Nagaland:
- Extortion by insurgent groups has been a way of life for people living in India’s north-eastern states, particularly in Nagaland.
- It is an open secret that all separatist outfits run their own parallel governments and collect extortion money — sometimes more than 20 per cent of the annual income — from individuals, businesses, government departments and employees.
- While non-Nagas are heavily taxed, the Nagas themselves are not spared.
- Payment of this so-called “tax” to armed Naga groups is the only way to ensure safety.
Effects on neighboring state:
Demand of Greater Nagalim also contains the territories of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal, which is a major bone of contention among these states. For any resolution to be successful it is required to satisfy demands of other stakeholders, especially of Manipuris.
Why the accord is complex apart from unreasonable demands?
- Problem with the final accord revolves around the Naga “customary law” which is not codified. Since it is a tradition and not a law, each Naga tribe disputes the capacity of the other to frame the law.
- It would be politically unviable to accept this demand even though the centre has agreed to guarantee the protection of the Naga identity.
- The non-Nagas remain apprehensive of the idea in view of lack of clarity and also given the historical and socio-political complexities involved.
- Moreover, other ethnic groups too are likely to be tempted to demand a similar arrangement.
- Likewise, the suggestion to extend Article 371(A) of the constitution – a special provision with respect to the State of Nagaland – to the Naga-dominated areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam as well is viewed with scepticism by the non-Nagas.
What the accord can bring?
- Once the accord is ready, the Naga armed groups will stand disbanded and the non-state armed militia who are eligible will be absorbed in central or state forces.
- Those who are not eligible will be rehabilitated by the government.
- The accord also has provision for the removal of AFSPA from Nagaland.
Other party involved:
Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO):
- The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has agreed to discuss the demands of the ENPO, an apex body of six Naga tribes, asking for a separate state under the Constitution.
- ENPO president Khoiwang Konyak said, “Our demands and political issues are different from other Naga groups, including NSCN-IM, and are primarily concerned with six tribes namely Chang, Konyak, Khiamniungan, Phom, Sangtam and Yimchunger.”
- Demand: ENPO has been demanding the creation of a separate Frontier State comprising the four eastern districts of Tuensang, Mon, Longleng and Kiphire for over a decade now.
- Basis for demand: ENPO during the tripartite meeting cited provisions of Article 371-A (2) of the Constitution to stress that the eastern districts have a historical background, are comparatively less developed and required immediate attention.
- Probable solution: The demand for a separate state may not be feasible but the government may consider giving them autonomous council authority, comprising the four eastern districts of Nagaland.
History of 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 armed movement begin?
- On March 22, 1952, Phizo formed the underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA).
- The Government of India sent in the Army to crush the insurgency and, in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
When did the peace efforts start?
- On June 29, 1947, Assam Governor Sir Akbar Hyderi signed a 9-point agreement with moderates T Sakhrie and Aliba Imti, which was almost immediately rejected by Phizo.
- The Naga Hills, a district of Assam, 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 Mission, and got the government and NNC to sign an agreement to suspend operations that September.
- But the NNC/NFG/NFA continued to indulge in violence, and after six rounds of talks, the Peace Mission was abandoned in 1967, and a massive counter-insurgency operation launched.
- Unification of Naga-inhabited areas without disturbing the existing boundaries of the northeastern states (Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh) is viewed as a viable option.
- Maximum autonomy may be accorded in ethnic, cultural and developmental realms to autonomous councils for all Naga areas in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and even Assam, through suitable amendment to the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
- Reckoning the unique history and legacy of the Nagas, a tribal cultural collective body in the form of a pan-Naga Hoho could be constituted under an act of parliament.
- The government of Myanmar will have to be on board the Naga settlement, at least tacitly.
- It is imperative that prior to finalisation of any ‘framework agreement’, care is taken to see that there is an across the board acceptance of ‘fundamental principles’ and ‘objective necessities’.
Q1. “Lasting peace in the Northeast is not possible without resolving the Naga insurgency. However, given the complexities involved, there is no easy solution.” Discuss.
Q2. If the Naga Peace Accord does not attain finality, political uncertainty will set in, with multi-faceted ramifications from the internal security and geopolitical perspectives. Critically analyse. Also, suggest ways how the accord can be finalized.