NAGA Issue

The recent killings of civilians in the Nagaland by the Assam Rifles in a botched operation has cast shadows on the Naga Peace process. This has brought the Naga issue at the forefront and has raised questions about the abuse of powers under the AFSPA act. In this backdrop let us understand the Naga Issue in detail.

Origin of the Naga Issue

  • British annexed Assam in 1826 and 1881 and Naga hills became a part of British India.=
  • In 1918, Naga Club was formed – opposed the Simon Commission.
  • 1946 – Naga National Council (NNC) under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947.
  • NNC resolved to establish a “sovereign Naga state” and conducted a “referendum” in 1951, in which “99%” supported an “independent” Nagaland.In 1952 – underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA) was formed.
  • The Government of India sent in the Army to crush the insurgency and, in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Peace efforts

  • In 1964 a peace mission was formed and the NNC signed an agreement to suspend operations.
  • 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
  • Shillong Accord 1975 – Under this section of NNC and NFG agreed to give up arms.

NSCN – National Socialist Council of Nagaland

  • A group of NAGA leaders led by Thuingaleng Muivah, who were in China, refused to accept the Shillong Accord and formed the NSCN in 1980.
  • In 1988, the NSCN split into NSCN (Isak Muivah) and NSCN (Khaplang) after a violent clash
  • With the formation of NSCN, the NNC began to fade away. Phizo the leader of NNC died in London in 1991, the NSCN (IM) came to be seen as the “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.

NSCN (IM) – Demands

  • A “Greater Nagalim” comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas” along with Nagaland.It included several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, and a large tract of Myanmar.
  • Governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have resented these claims.
  • After negotiations by one government after the other at the Centre, Government of India signed a ceasefire agreement with NSCN (IM) on July 25, 1997, which came into effect on August 1, 1997.

2015 – Framework Agreement with NSCN – IM and the Stalemate

It was signed by the interlocutor for Naga peace talks, R.N. Ravi on behalf of the Centre with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and seven Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs)to find a solution to the Naga political issue.

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Disagreement over Separate Constitution and Flag

  • While NNPG groups agree with the 2015 agreement, the NSCN – IM has said that an accord cannot happen until the Centre accepts Naga people’s demand for a separate constitution and flag.
  • Centre has refused to accept the demands of a separate constitution and flag leading to a stalemate in the peace talks.
  • Centre has suggested alternatives – such as cultural flag instead of a national flag and dealing with issues of a constitution after signing the agreement.

Change in Situation Post Abrogation of Article 370

  • When Naga Framework Agreement was signed in 2015 provision of Separate flag and constitution were acceptable given the existence of a state with similar arrangement in the form of erstwhile state of J&K.
  • However, post 2019 with abrogation of Article 370, the government is not willing to provide these concessions to the Nagas due to political calculations.

Ambiguous Wording of framework Agreement

  • Talks broke down in 2020 and NSCN – IM revealed the details of the Agreement.
  • NSCN – IM has accused the interlocutor of High Handedness: It has accused the interlocutor of deleting a key word from the original document and sharing the modified version with other Naga groups.
  • The Group has raised the deletion of word “New” from the original phrase used in the agreement – “enduring inclusive new relationship of peaceful co-existence of the two entities.”The NSCN(I-M) says the word ‘new’ is politically sensitive as it goes to define the meaning of peaceful co-existence of the two entities (two sovereign powers).
  • Phrases such as “unique history and position,” “sovereignty lies with the people,” “sharing sovereign power,” and “peaceful coexistence of the two entities” were open to interpretation by both sides.

Organised Armed Gangs

  • Interlocutor had warned Nagaland government that half a dozen organized armed gangs were brazenly running their respective ‘so called governments’ challenging the legitimacy of the State Government.”
  • He resigned as interlocutor following the stalemate.

Recent Civilian Killing & Naga Peace Talks

  • It has potential to revive the narrative of India versus Naga people.
  • The killings could be exploited by certain insurgent groups to recruit and even strengthen the hands of the NSCN(I-M). Seven NNPG groups which support early conclusion of peace talks will be hesitant to come to table in the backdrop of the public anger.
  • All the groups have criticised the AFSPA act and have made the finalisation of talks contingent upon repeal of the AFSPA law.

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