The status of the Naga peace talks
- The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released recently said that the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was involved in 44% of insurgency-related incidents in Nagaland in 2020.
- The Union government had, in 2015, signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM to find a solution to the Naga political issue. The negotiations are yet to be concluded.
Naga issue - Background
- The term Naga was created by the British for administrative convenience to refer to a group of tribes with similar origins but distinct cultures, dialects, and customs.
- The Naga tribes are accumulated in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Myanmar.
- Residing in the Naga Hills of Assam during the advent of the British and the annexation of Assam in 1820, the Nagas did not consider themselves a part of British India.
- The British governed the Nagas by keeping in place their traditional ways of life, customs, and laws while putting British administrators at the top.
Beginning of the Naga insurgency
- At the time of the withdrawal of the British, insecurity grew among the Naga tribes about the future of their cultural autonomy after India’s independence, which was accompanied by the fear of the entry of “plains people” or “outsiders” into their territory.
- These gave rise to the formation of the Naga Hills District Tribal Council in 1945, which was renamed the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946.
- Amid uncertainties over the post-independence future of the Nagas, a section of the NNC, led by Naga leader A.Z. Phizo declared the independence of the Nagas on August 14, 1947, a day before India’s declaration.
- The underground insurgency began in the early 1950s when Mr Phizo founded the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and its armed wing, the Naga Federal Army (NFA).
- Central Government sent the armed forces into Naga areas to curb the insurgency and imposed the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is still in place in parts of Nagaland.
- The Nagas, demanding an independent state outside of India, boycotted the 1952 and 1957 general elections and armed clashes grew.
- Unlike other groups in the northeast which were accepting some form of autonomy under the Constitution, Nagas rejected this in favour of sovereignty.
- Some leaders among the NNC formed their own group to hold discussions with the government, leading to the formation of the State of Nagaland in 1963.
- But this did not satisfy many in the NNC and NFG, and after negotiations with the government, they eventually signed the Shillong Accord of 1975, agreeing to surrender arms and accept the Constitution.
When did the NSCN come into the picture?
- This signing of the Shillong Accord was not agreeable as it did not address the issue of Naga sovereignty and coerced them to accept the Constitution.
- Three NNC leaders formed the National Socialist Council Of Nagaland (NSCN) to continue the armed movement.
- The motto was to create a People’s Republic of Nagaland free of Indian rule.
- In 1988, it split into two factions.
- One, led by Mr Muiwah and Swu called the NSCN-IM
- Other, led by Mr Khaplang called the NSCN-K.
- The NSCN-IM demanded and continues to demand ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim
- It wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in the neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
- The NSCN-IM has now grown to become the most powerful insurgent group, also playing a role in the creation of smaller groups in other States.
- Its armed operations intensified along with illegal activities like tax extortion, smuggling of weapons and so on.
Where do the peace talks stand now?
- 1997: GOI got NSCN-IM to sign a ceasefire agreement to begin talks with the aim of signing a Naga Peace Accord.
- After this ceasefire, there have been over a hundred rounds of talks spanning over 24 years between the Centre and the insurgent group, while a solution is still awaited.
- New Delhi has been holding peace parleys simultaneously with the NSCN-IM, and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) comprising at least seven other extremist groups, including the NSCN (K).
- In 2015, it signed a Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM), the first step towards an actual Peace Accord.
- The then Joint Intelligence Chief R.N. Ravi was appointed the interlocutor for Naga peace talks and signed the agreement on behalf of the Centre.
- The negotiations hit an impasse in 2020, with the NSCN-IM demanding the removal of Mr Ravi as interlocutor, accusing him of “high handedness” and tweaking the agreement to mislead other Naga groups.
- The NSCN-IM continued to demand a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas and the creation of Nagalim, which it claimed was agreed upon in the Agreement.
- After Mr Ravi’s removal, IB officer A.K. Mishra was appointed as the interlocutor for the peace talks.
Issues of contention
- Independence celebration: Nagas across Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh celebrate August 14 as Independence Day.
- According to Naga historians, Gandhi agreed that the Nagas would celebrate their independence a day ahead of India, on August 14, 1947.
- Naga flag: In the Naga narrative, passed down generations by word of mouth, the Naga flag was not designed by a mortal but is of divine origin.
- Secessionist tendencies: A large section of the Nagas still holds dear the idea of the Naga identity and their tribal roots.
- The Naga struggle claimed thousands of lives over decades and devastated countless homes, all over the idea of a sovereign Naga nation.
- If the NSCN (I-M) accedes to economic and political packages alone, without a separate flag and constitution, it remains to be seen whether it will be seen as a solution, or as a defeat.
Prelims take away
- Naga Peace Accord
- Formation of States and Union Territories - Constitutional provisions
Q. Briefly explain the Naga crisis, along with initiatives taken to resolve the issues. (150 words)