INDIA’S LONGEST INSURGENCY MOVEMENT IN NAGALAND : IT’S HISTORY AND EVOLUTION

Introduction

Insurgency movement in Nagaland is the longest insurgency movement in India. Despite numbers of peace talks and peace accords between the Government of India and insurgency groups in Nagaland, considering the ongoing demands relating to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act , 1958 (AFSPA), it seems that the situation in not healthy and the Government should take instant remedial measures. Definitely, it does not mean that illegal demands may be accepted due to pressure caused by violent act of any group but the Human Rights of the common people has to be safeguarded.

To understand the Naga Culture and People, we need to understand insurgency movement in Nagaland that originated even before inception of Nagaland and when it was Naga Hills, a district of Assam.

Pre-independence: Evolution of Insurgency

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.[1]https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/everything-you-need-to-know-about-nagaland-insurgency-and-the-efforts-to-solve/

The British India government had sent 2,000-3,000 Nagas as part of The Naga Labour Corps to work in trenches as labourers and porters in France. After these Naga veterans from The Naga Labour Corps returned after WWI, they formed the Naga Club in 1918 in Kohima.[2]https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm

As World War II erupted, the Nagas were at the forefront of the Japanese assault from the East, especially in the Battle of Kohima. After the Japanese were routed and forced to retreat, the Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills district established the Naga Hills District Tribal Council, replacing the Naga Club, to work on repairing the damage of the conflict.[3]https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm

The organisation was later rechristened as the Naga National Council (NNC), with an objective to work out the terms of British withdrawal with the Indian government. An important objective was the call for local autonomy and safeguarding the interests of the Naga, which again was rejected by then Congress president Jawaharlal Nehru. After further negotiations between Sir Akbar Hydari, the Governor of Assam, the NNC and tribal leaders, a Nine-Point Agreement was drafted and almost agreed upon in 1947.[4]https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm

While the Nine-Point Agreement settled the question of protection of Naga rights from the legislature of the central authority, it was the final clause that proved to be problematic. The clause was poorly worded and while to the NNC, it meant that India would give independence (or at least significant autonomy) to the Nagas, to Indian authorities, the clause meant making a new agreement after the 10 years period.[5]https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm

As a result of the disagreement over the clause, the agreement was never adopted and the NNC, under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, declared independence on 14 August, 1947. Phizo organised the Naga Home Guard in 1954, which developed into the Naga underground army, who armed themselves with WW-II British weapons left behind.[6]https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm

Post-independence: Insurgency and Peace talks

NNC held a referendum in May, 1951 claiming 99% of Nagas voted in favour of an independent Nagaland but it was never accepted by the Indian Government. The first general elections in 1952 were boycotted by NNC and it started a violent secessionist movement making Naga insurgency the oldest in India.[7]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html

As a result, in 1955 the central government enacted the Assam Disturbed Areas Act and deployed the Assam Rifles to fully combat the insurgency. But the hardliners stuck to their demand for sovereignty.[8]https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm

According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) in the first few years, NNC cadres would raid villages and police outposts for funds and arms but on March 22, 1956, Phizo created an underground government called the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA). In April 1956, the Indian Army was called in to crush the insurgency in what was, till then, the Naga Hills District of the State of Assam. To deal with the situation, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, was subsequently enacted. Phizo, however, escaped to the then East Pakistan in December 1956 and, subsequently, to London in June 1960.[9]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html

Insurgency Associations in Nagaland

Assam was divided on December 1, 1963 and Nagaland became a separate state and another round of attempts were made for a political settlement. Freedom fighter Jai Prakash Narayan, the then Assam chief minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott led a Peace Mission to Nagaland in April 1964. An agreement for Suspension of Operation (AGSOP) was signed with Naga insurgents on September 6, 1964 raising hopes of a peaceful solution. But NNC cadres soon broke the agreement and launched a series of attacks on security forces and Army units posted in the area. Finally, the Peace Mission came to an end in 1967 after six rounds of talks between the insurgents and the Centre which failed to yield any positive result[10]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html and a massive counter-insurgency operation was launched [11]https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/everything-you-need-to-know-about-nagaland-insurgency-and-the-efforts-to-solve/.

NNC and its constituents the NFG and the NFA were declared “unlawful associations” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 and banned by the Centre in 1972. SATP reports that security forces launched a massive counter-insurgency operation and once again brought the situation under control forcing the insurgents to the negotiating table.[12]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html

An agreement known as the Shillong Accord was signed between the Centre and a section of the NNC and the NFG on November 11, 1975. According to the terms of Shillong Accord, the NNC-NFG accepted the Indian Constitution and agreed to come overground and surrender their weapons. However, a group of about 140 activists of NNC, who had gone to China for training, repudiated the Shillong Accord and refused to surrender and formed another terror group called National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). The NSCN leaders were Thuengaling Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu and SS Khaplang and the group was formed in Myanmar (then Burma) in 1980.[13]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html While the NNC began to fade away, and Phizo died in London in 1991, the NSCN (IM) came to be seen as the “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.

After the death of Phizo in 1990, there was another split in the NNC. Phizo’s daughter Adino, an Angami, and Khudhao Nanthan, a Sema and a close associate of Phizo, constituted separate groups on rival lines. In the winter of 1996-97, Khudhao joined NSCN (lM) and is currently the Vice Chairman of the organization. With this move NSCN (IM) was also able to get the support of the Lothas to which Kudao belongs .All factions of the NSCN and NNC (Adino) have been banned since 1991 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.[14]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html

Brief History of Insurgency in Nagaland and Peace Talks

The NSCN-IM lays primary emphasis on the point that the Naga region was never a part of India and that freedom fighter and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s argument was fallacious when he said that India had “inherited” the Naga area from the British. Both Swu and Muivah argue that “the fate of a people cannot be passed on like an inheritance from one party to another”. The NSCN-IM has taken an inflexible stand on this point and insists that their demand is not for ‘secession’ because they have never been a part of the Indian Union.[15]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html

Muivah, Swu and other top NSCN (IM) leaders escaped to Thailand in the early 1990s. While Nagaland Governor M M Thomas, a Church leader from Kerala, extracted the first positive response from the NSCN(IM), Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao met Muivah, Swu and others in Paris on June 15, 1995. In November 1995, then MoS (Home) Rajesh Pilot met them in Bangkok. Subsequently, Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda met them in Zurich on February 3, 1997, which was followed by meetings with officers in Geneva and Bangkok. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met them in Paris on September 30, 1998. The Government of India signed a ceasefire agreement with NSCN (IM) on July 25, 1997, which came into effect on August 1, 1997. Over 80 rounds of talks between the two sides were held subsequently.[16]https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/everything-you-need-to-know-about-nagaland-insurgency-and-the-efforts-to-solve/

In 2015, peace deal signed between the Narendra Modi government and NSCM-IM in New Delhi. NSCM-IM’s main demand has been the creation of a ‘Greater Nagalim’ which will also have several districts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. The other three States have made it clear that even though they have Naga tribes residing within their boundaries but they will not allow those areas to be a part of ‘Greater Nagalim’ as demanded by the NSCM-IM. In fact, according to Naga insurgent groups, the ‘Greater Nagalim’ should also include Naga-dominated areas of Myanmar.[17]https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html

Greater Nagalism, as the NSCN (IM) originally sought

Many are wondering if the peace talks between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India now lie in tatters. Unfortunately, the media has focussed exclusively on the NSCN (IM) and ignored the other Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), who have been brought on board because they are Nagaland-based and speak exclusively for Nagaland. The NSCN (IM) is led by a Tangkhul Naga from Manipur and the majority of its cadres are also Nagas from Manipur. The NNPGs and the Gaon Bura Association of Nagaland doubt NSCN (IM)’s ability to bring lasting peace in Nagaland. They know that the NSCN (IM) is not an organisation with whom dialogue is possible or which is in the habit of examining its conscience and regretting its actions. It exists to recruit resentment and to direct that resentment against the usual target — Delhi or India.[18]https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nagaland-massacre-killing-based-on-wrong-intelligence-7664842/

It is important to take stock of the situation on the ground as it has existed since 2015. NSCN (IM) cadres, although living in a designated camp at Mount Hebron near Dimapur, move around freely with arms and extort with impunity. In the past, they have mercilessly gunned down rival factions but there has been no reaction because the people of Nagaland are a traumatised lot. Having faced the wrath of state and non-state powers, they had lost their voice, until a few years ago when people started expressing their anger against such killings and extortion over social media.[19]https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nagaland-massacre-killing-based-on-wrong-intelligence-7664842/

Since 2015, the Nagaland Gaon Bura Association, the apex body of Nagas which includes all the 16 recognised tribes and the NNPGs barring the NSCN (IM), have sent several memorandums addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, asking that whatever terms are agreed upon with the NSCN (IM) should be concluded and the remaining issues be resolved through peaceful means. Why has the Centre ignored these petitions?[20]https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nagaland-massacre-killing-based-on-wrong-intelligence-7664842/

These representatives of the Naga people do not demand a separate flag or constitution because they understand these are tenuous demands. It is a settled issue that there will be no territorial rearrangement and the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam will not be reorganised for that would unleash a Frankenstein’s monster. These groups have also never raised the sovereignty issue. The working committee of the seven NNPGs, roped in to join the peace talks, are also opposed to the idea of changing interlocutors as and when the NSCN (IM) decides.[21]https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nagaland-massacre-killing-based-on-wrong-intelligence-7664842/

Today, the people of Nagaland are being held hostage by governments both at the State and the Centre. People question why the Centre is pandering to the NSCN (IM) at the cost of the people of Nagaland. Why continue to use the army and AFSPA when killings have reduced considerably? The apex body has specifically mentioned that they want to be delivered from the gun culture. Why is the Centre not responding to that call? In fact, the Government of India is seen as pandering to the political leadership of Nagaland, which is alienated from the people, instead of responding to the aspirations of the Naga people. It’s a given that if the state uses armed forces, there will be excesses because the army is trained to kill the enemy. Deploying the army means that the Government of India considers the areas where AFSPA is invoked and the people who live there as the enemy.[22]https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nagaland-massacre-killing-based-on-wrong-intelligence-7664842/

Also Read: AFSPA: Is it a Blot on Indian Democracy

Now, in December, 2021, after recent killings in Nagaland, things may go out of control if it is not looked into and tackled instantly.

Also Read: AFSPA AND NAGALAND KILLINGS

Conclusion

Initially, the Insurgency groups were having edge since they obtained faith of the people but the Government of India had tackled the issue wisely and its leaders shown real Statesmanship. Government of India has always been in touch with these insurgency groups and dealt with them in all the possible manner including peace talks, peace accord and by force which deserves appreciation. But at the same time, common people deserve to be treated in peaceful manner only. Various News Reports shows ill treatment with the Naga people and not only that social discrimination is also there which need to be dealt with.

India has always been torch bearer of the principle of natural justice and therefore involved in peace talks with Naga insurgents. Now situation has a bit different where Indian judiciary leaned for judicial activist for liberal approach in certain cases which can be seen numbers of suo motu cases in the interest of public at large.

Considering the entire situation, the Government of India is now required to eradicate the entire chaos and take the Naga people in confidence to end up this bullet game which ultimately cause fear and a sense of insecurity among the people. In our opinion, in any violence due to any reason, the ultimate victim is the innocent people who strive hard for the bread and butter for their family’s survival.

References

References
1, 11, 16 https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/everything-you-need-to-know-about-nagaland-insurgency-and-the-efforts-to-solve/
2, 8 https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm
3, 4, 5, 6 https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/explained-naga-insurgency-and-the-anti-insurgency-op-that-went-horribly-wrong-11719972.htm
7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17 https://www.news18.com/news/politics/the-history-of-insurgency-in-nagaland-1029928.html
18, 19, 20, 21, 22 https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nagaland-massacre-killing-based-on-wrong-intelligence-7664842/

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