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The Naga Insurgency

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  • The Naga Insurgency

    I'm starting this thread with some research papers of Dinesh Kotwal from IDSA...

    Who Are The Nagas

    Belonging to the Indo-Mongoloid group and speaking the Tibeto-Burman dialects of the Sino-Tibetan family, the earliest presence of Nagas appears to have been noted in Yajurveda about a thousand years before Christ. Then referred to as "Kirata", the tribal groups now occupy a vast area of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Myanmar. Of the various interpretations offered, the most plausible is that the word "Naga" has been derived from the Hindi root 'Naga', meaning naked.

    Nagas are divided into various tribes, sub-tribes and clans with varying customs, traditions, dress, language, polity etc. Numerous Naga tribes speaking different dialects, occupying specific mountain ranges with settlements on hilltops and following an animistic religion until their recent rapid conversion to Christianity, had been fighting among themselves and raiding the plains of Assam. They had been living in relative isolation for centuries. It was only from the first quarter of the last century that they were brought into real contact with the outside world by several agencies, the most prominent of which were the British missionaries. The British followed a policy of "least interference" in the internal affairs of the Nagas, giving due regard to the continuance of the tribal village administration, land system, customary laws, social customs and communal institutions. Therefore, the traditional life pattern of the Naga tribes remained unchanged, but inter-tribal warfare and head-hunting diminished due to British intervention.

    In their own interest, the British declared the Naga territory as a "backward area" and aimed at administering it "in a simpler and more personal manner than those of the more civilised and longer settled tribes". The success of the British policy, however, rested on the least possible interference and the use of traditional institutions, with the missionary rather than the administrator as the main harbinger of change. Therefore, little importance was given to the improvement of means of communication and natural resources. The task of educating the tribesmen was left in the hands of the missionaries whose main task was the spread of Christianity. In 1873, the Lieutenant Governor of Assam, with the approval of the Governor-General of British India, promulgated the Bengal-Eastern Frontier Regulation, which brought into force what came to be known as the 'Inner Line'. Under these regulations, the people from the plains were prevented from entering the Naga areas while an exception was made in the case of Christian missionaries. This might have saved the Nagas from "exploitation by outsiders and sudden disruption of Naga culture", but it went a long way in isolating the Nagas from the national mainstream. They continued to lead their lives in isolation and despite their love for freedom, were not in any way drawn into the anti-British struggle led by the Indian National Congress. However the English language and Christianity brought a gradual change in the outlook of these people, and infused a sense of nationality in them.

    In 1918, a few government officials and leading Naga chiefs formed an organisation known as the "Naga Club" at Kohima for promoting the interests of the Nagas. This club provided a common platform for leaders of different tribes of Nagas. In the absence of any other organisation, the Naga Club turned into an effective political forum for the Naga tribes. The psychological phase of the Naga insurgency can be said to have formally begun at this point. When the Simon Commission visited Naga Hills in 1929 a strong delegation representing different tribes of Nagas submitted a memorandum demanding that their hills be excluded from the proposed reform scheme and kept under direct British rule. More than twenty representatives of the different tribes signed the memorandum. One of the members of the Commission, E. Cadogan declared in the House of Commons in May 1935, that the Nagas had "a very shrewd suspicion that something is being done to take away from them their immemorial rights and customs". No attempt was made to clear the Naga suspicions since this suited the British interests.

    As a result of the recommendations of the Simon Commission, under the Government of India Act, 1935 Naga Hills were excluded from the reform scheme. Declared as an "Excluded Area" they continued to be administered by the Government of Assam. Whether the special provisions made by the Act of 1935 fulfilled the political aspirations of the Nagas or not is a difficult question to answer. Judging from the absence of any agitation of a political nature from the time of issuing notification of the Government of India's External Affairs Department (No.1-X) dated April 1, 193713 to the formation of the Naga National Council, it can be presumed that the Nagas acquiesced to the new arrangement.

    The World Wars too had a tremendous impact on the Nagas. During World War I the Naga members of the Labour Corps brought money and dresses, but World War II was fought in Nagaland itself. Nagas were introduced to modern guerilla fighting which was natural to them. The dumps of arms and ammunition left by the retreating Japanese Army provided ready material to be used against the security forces later.

    The War brought a greater degree of unity among the Nagas. After the war, at the initiative of C.R. Pawsey, then British Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills District, the Naga Hills Tribal Council was formed in April 1945 to help in the relief and rehabilitation work. It was converted into Naga National Council (NNC)14 in April, 1946 at Wokha with the aim to carry out social and political upliftment of the Nagas. The most significant fact about the council was that for the first time, the term "national" was used in the Naga phraseology, indicating the intensity of Naga feelings. The council was composed of 29 members representing different tribes, on the basis of proportional representation. The educated section of the Nagas of course, provided the leadership of the N.N.C. In the beginning, the political objective of the Naga National Council was solidarity of all Nagas, including those of the unadministered areas and the inclusion of their hills within the province of Assam in a free India, with local autonomy and adequate safeguards for the interest of the Nagas. This demand of the Nagas was well received in the circle of the Indian National Congress.

    Cheers!...on the rocks!!

  • #2
    Naga Imbroglio

    Satisfied with the participation of the "hill tribes" in the war and their loyalty to the Government, some British officers abroad suggested new plans ("Crown Colony") for the hill areas of Northeast India. The scheme of a "Crown Colony" could not gain ground due to the "peculiar political and constitutional situation" facing the country on the eve of Indian independence. In the beginning, the political objective of the Naga National Council was local autonomy for Naga Hills within the province of Assam. But the return of Angami Zapu Phizo from Burma greatly helped the undercurrents of the Naga politics to come to the surface within a year in the form of N.N.C.'s June 1947 declaration that the Naga Hills would cease to be a part of India with the departure of the British. The N.N.C. turned down the offer of autonomy envisaged in the sixth Schedule of the Constituent Assembly. It was this dilemma in Naga perception about their own future and India's geo-political interest in the Naga Hills that led to the Hydari Agreement in 1947, Clause IX of which up till now has been a major bone of contention for its ambiguity. Clause IX of the agreement reads as under.

    "Period of Agreement—The Governor of Assam as the Agent of the Government of the Indian Union will have a special responsibility for a period of 10 years to ensure the due observance of this agreement; at the end of this period the Naga Council will be asked whether they require the above agreement to be extended for a further period or a new agreement regarding the future of the Naga people arrived at".

    There was a great misunderstanding about 'clause nine' of the agreement between the N.N.C. and the Government of India on account of ambiguity in wording and interpretation of the clause. During this period on July 1947, a Naga delegation headed by Phizo met Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi for pressing their demand for independence. After giving the delegation a patient hearing, as claimed by the Naga leaders the Mahatma remarked.

    "The Nagas have every right to be independent. I want you to feel that India is yours. I feel that the Naga Hills are mine just as much as they are yours… Why wait for August 15 to declare independence… I will come to Kohima and ask Army to shoot me before they shoot one Naga". This statement of Gandhiji impressed the Naga leaders very much.

    Back in their hills, on August 14th on the eve of the Independence of India, some Nagas under the leadership of Phizo declared their own independence. Independence was declared by the extremist group, which has emerged within the N.N.C. This group wanted the absolute right to chart their future course so that they could opt for a sovereign state. The next day, independence of India was declared which the Nagas boycotted. In this connection, a statement given by Pawsey, then Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills as recorded by Julian Jacob, in the album "The Nagas—Hill people of North-East India" is worth mentioning.

    "In 1947, a Naga delegation visited Delhi in order to assess the Nagas' intention not to join the new Republic. Upto this point, both Gandhi and Nehru had said they were sympathetic to the Nagas and would not support forced unions. The Nagas' own interpretation of their meeting with Gandhi in July was that this was still the Congress policy. But in August, perhaps in response to fears of secession elsewhere in the new India (especially in the Princely states as well as Pakistan) the Indian Government's attitude hardened and the Nagas were told that India would never allow independence. The Nagas reacted by a declaration of Independence unilaterally signed by nine members of the NNC on August 14, 1947".

    Both the above statements are the claims of Naga leaders. No Indian leader who was close to the Mahatma ever confirmed the reported statement of Gandhiji. Mr. Pyare Lal, secretary of Gandhiji, later on denied the contention of the Naga leaders about the statement. Pandit Nehru termed the Nagas' demand for independence as 'absurd'. In the words of Pandit Nehru: "I consider freedom very precious. I am sure that the Nagas are as free as I am bound by all sorts of laws, the Nagas are not to the same extent bound by such laws and governed by their customary laws and usages. But the independence the Nagas are after, is something quite different from individual or group freedom. In the present context of affairs both in India and the world, it is impossible to consider even for a moment such an absurd demand for independence of the Nagas. It is doubtful whether the Nagas realise the consequences of what they are asking for. For their present demand would ruin them."

    However, the declaration by itself marked the beginning of a new chapter of confrontation and conflict, of armed insurrection by a section of the Nagas and the counter-offensive launched by the Indian security forces. The assumption of direct leadership of the Naga National Council in December 1950 by Phizo, referendum of May 1951, boycott of General Elections of 1952, establishment of a parallel government in 1956 are some of its important developments to understand/analyse the socio-political unrest in Nagaland.

    Cheers!...on the rocks!!


    • #3
      N.N.C. and the Naga Cause

      Nothing in the Hydari agreement suggested that the Naga participation in India was temporary, though the N.N.C. insisted upon that interpretation. The government interpreted the agreement in the light that Nagas had the freedom only to suggest revision of the administrative pattern after ten years, which was unacceptable to the N.N.C. Meanwhile, differences cropped up within the N.N.C. After Phizo became its president, N.N.C. decisively rejected the government's interpretation of the agreement. As he ascended in the N.N.C. leadership, from 1951 onwards the situation began to change dramatically for the worse. In May 1951, he organised a "plebiscite" in which Nagas gave their thumb impressions in favour of independence. In the same year, the first General Elections of independent India were held, which too were boycotted by the Nagas. That provided an opportunity for the Naga extremists to demonstrate their non-acceptance of the Indian constitution.

      As the N.N.C. boycotted the Government of India, the authorities apprehended trouble. On March 30, 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kohima and was greeted with derision. That was another unhappy episode. The Naga leaders maintain that "the Indian leader did not try to find out the wishes of the Naga people. The same year nine police out-posts were opened in the Naga Hills. Action against the N.N.C. members was intensified. Different Acts, including the Assam Disturbed Areas Act 1955, were imposed to enable the armed forces personnel to carry out their difficult task. In 1956, army units were deployed in important towns like Kohima and Mokokchung.

      By this time, the strength of underground Nagas increased and the situation was becoming tense. On March 22, 1956, the N.N.C. set up its government—the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) and hoisted the republic's flag. The N.N.C. activists also formed the Naga Home Guard (NHG) and an underground Parliament called "Tatar Hoho". The Naga government was strongly supported by the Burmese Communist Party. It shot down an Indian Air Force transport aircraft on a supply dropping mission and the crew were held hostage for many years. Soon large-scale violence erupted throughout Nagaland which was then known as Naga Hills and was still a part of Assam.

      On April 11, 1962, the President of India issued the Nagaland Security Regulation, 1962, for the suppression of subversive activities, maintenance of essential supplies and services and control of military requirements. In August 1962, Nehru moved in Parliament the Bills for the 13th amendment of the Constitution and for the creation of the state of Nagaland. The Bills were given assent by the President on September 4, 1962. On December 1, 1963, President Radhakrishnan inaugurated the State of Nagaland at Kohima. Mr. P. Shily Ao became the Chief Minister and declared the occasion "a day of rejoicing" and "the day to redeem our pledge". But, underground activities still continued in the area. The Indian government viewed the Naga problem seriously, and declared the N.N.C., Federal Government of Nagaland and its army "unlawful associations" under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 on August 31, 1972.

      At the same time, the Government of India was exerting extreme pressure on the N.N.C. leaders and ultimately it led to the signing of what is known as the "Shillong Accord" with a section of the N.N.C. leaders. Under the accord, signed in Shillong on November 11, 1975, the N.F.G. agreed to accept the solution of the Naga problem within the framework of the Indian Constitution, abjure violence, bring out the armed men to surrender weapons and resolve the residual problems through discussions. Though, for the first time, the Government of India refused to relax the operations after the 1975 accord, it permitted the N.N.C. to assume legality following the decision of not extending the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. It made alive an organisation that had been the symbol of terrorism, destruction and disintegration for nearly three years. Those who signed the accord did not consult Phizo, the N.N.C. president, and other senior leaders like Isak Chishi Swu and then General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah who at the time were camping in the eastern Naga Hills, in upper Myanmar. While Phizo refused to lend support, several underground Naga members led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah who had strongly opposed the Shillong accord ultimately formed the "National Socialist Council Of Nagaland" (NSCN) on January 31, 1980.

      Cheers!...on the rocks!!


      • #4
        New Vanguard—National Socialist Council of Nagaland

        The National Socialist Council Of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed in the thick jungles of eastern Naga Hills in upper Myanmar area with Isak Chishi Swu as the Chairman, SS Khaplang, a Hemis Naga of upper Myanmar, as Vice-President and Thuingaleng Muivah, a Tangkhul Naga of Manipur's Ukhrul district, as the General Secretary. The NSCN has been carrying on an armed struggle to bring an end to Indian suzerainty over the Naga people and to establish a People's Republic of Nagaland based on Mao's ideology. The manifesto of NSCN is based on the principle of socialism for economic solution and a spiritual outlook—"Nagaland for Christ". The initial strength of the outfit was approximately 150 cadres and rose to 3,000 with Konyaks and Tangkhuls forming the main recruits. Other tribes in lesser numbers include, Semas, Kukis, Yumchungus, and Maos. With a large array of sophisticated weapons procured through robberies, Kachen. Independent Army (KIA), and international markets, the NSCN, soon developed and turned out to be the most powerful underground organisations in the Northeastern region. In spite of the intermittent attacks on their camps by Naga activists belonging to the Federal Government of Nagaland, the NSCN emerged as a "powerful and well-knit" insurgent organisation having close ties with the Myanmarese insurgent organisation, Kachen Independent Army (KIA). Armed NSCN insurgents spread their network to Manipur and in different parts of Nagaland. Several Kilonsers (ministers) were appointed and areas divided into different regions with a senior underground member in charge of each regional unit.

        The government on one hand exerted pressure on the insurgents and on the other side made efforts to get the undergrounds to the negotiating table. Several peace missions were sent to the NSCN leadership but there was no concrete response from the NSCN. The peace talks with the Indian government became a bone of contention among the senior NSCN leaders. Although no leader has supported the peace talks, the issue had its own disagreement within the ranks of the underground organisation and brought intra-party feuds to the forefront.

        On April 30, 1988, an attempt to assassinate Muivah and Tangkhul cadre in the NSCN set-up was executed in which a large number of undergrounds were killed. However, Muivah escaped and as a result, NSCN was vertically split into two factions namely NSCN led by Isak and Muivah and NSCN led by S.S. Khaplang. It was the bloodiest internal clash in the history of Naga insurgency. The NSCN split, when Khaplang suspected Isak and Muivah of secretly initiating talks with the Indian Government.

        The original group, which spearheaded the movement for independence of Nagaland under the leadership of Phizo, was N.N.C. After the death of Phizo in 1990, the N.N.C. suffered yet another division with a rival faction led by Adinno, daughter of Phizo and Khadao Youthan, an old associate and follower of Phizo. However, NSCN (I-M) has strength and weapons to dominate other outfits operating in Nagaland. It has moved from strength to strength and has been more aggressive and assertive than the other outfits. It has in fact become a central force in the Northeastern insurgency by expanding its range of operations. It has provided inspiration not only for ideological concepts and organisational structures of the other Northeastern insurgents, but has also given more concrete assistance by training the other groups in guerilla tactics and providing initial supplies of sophisticated arms.

        Cheers!...on the rocks!!


        • #5
          To be continued....the US role in Nagaland (pre-1971 is rather interesting).

          Cheers!...on the rocks!!


          • #6
            This is actually a popular article from IDSA on naga insurgency. I read it some two years ago.

            The sense of "ethno-nationalism" is not limited to the nagas. The indian observers just tend to focus absolutely on the nagas and mizos.

            The meiteis in manipur, the people from the erstwhile glorious kingdom too reject foreign nationalism.

            The chins, a huge population local to mizoram and myanmar too have their own nationalistic aspirations voiced very strictly in local linguistics. The division of its population across the two borders has posed a long term issue for them.

            The kukis, a tribal population from manipur has been at war with meiteis and nagas for a long time. Their aspirations toggles from plain state demand to a full sovereign state.

            Last year, new delhi declared a policy change suspending all future ceasefire deals with militants in NE because the groups tended to split into more factions(intentionally?) leading to more players for the central govt to deal with.


            • #7
              Posting the rest of the article

              The US Role

              Till the beginning of 1971, the USA continued to be the patron of the insurgents, though the actual supplies of arms and ammunitions from this source were not always steady. Bangkok became the Operational Headquarters of the C.I.A. Arms flowed from Bangkok liberally to any group that wanted to embark on an adventure. Besides, Pakistan, particularly its Eastern Wing, provided the insurgents with transit camps, training centers and a route to Bangkok and Peking. Dacca-Bangkok-London-Pindi-Peking channel was used to operate on the common ground of hatred towards India".42 At a time, when colonies became independent, neo-colonialism raised its head and Britain was weakened. The USA had taken over the vacuum in S-E Asia. As early as the nineteen fifties, the C.L.A. had extended its activities into Nagaland and was financing the underground movement. "American spies handed the tribal leaders several million rupees, weapons and secret instructions prepared in Washington".43 A journalist Dhruva Mazumdar, the author of 'Confession of a Journalist', states that he was paid by the C.I.A. to file reports from Northeastern India on movements of the Indian Army and "barrack room gossip".44

              Again, it was before Bangladesh was liberated that the U.S.A. and some other western powers hatched a conspiracy to create an "Independent Bengal" comprising East Pakistan, West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim and Bhutan. The "Blueprint of this nefarious design was spelt out in a Dacca datelined despatch circulated by Agencies International De Presa (International Press Agency) on December 7, 1963".45 The separatist leaders are said to have accepted the plot of independent Bengal with its capital in Calcutta. It promised the Nagas and Mizos of 'Greater Nagaland' and 'Greater Mizoram' as autonomous units within the framework of 'Great Bengal'.


              • #8
                The Chinese Role

                In 1973, a meeting of various insurgent elements, Chakmas (of Bangladesh), Nagas, Mizos and Meiteis was organised. This meeting was held evidently under the auspices of the Peking leadership. According to some reports, the meeting was held in Bangkok which would indicate a collaboration between Beijing (then Peking) leadership and the CIA. Bangkok is known as the Southeast Asian Operational Headquarters of the CIA. The meeting included to forge a kind of organisational confession of all the insurgent elements with a common "command" and a common strategy, so that the insurgency in Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and even Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh could be coordinated. However, the effort proved futile. It seems the Maoist leadership and CIA struck a deal. After that Beijing had to deal separately with each of the insurgent groups.46

                Actually, Chinese intentions about Northeast India was shown as early as the late fifties when Chinese committed what was called cartographic aggression of India since in the Chinese maps large parts of Northeastern India were shown as Chinese territory. China was interested in the strategic Himalayan area. Therefore, the target of Beijing leaders shifted to Nagaland as a top-priority. Kaito Sema, a top leader of the Naga insurgents, flew to Beijing from London where he had gone to meet and consult Phizo, the exiled leader of the Naga insurgents. Even after Kaito Sema had returned from Beijing, finalising the modality of mutual cooperation between the "Federal Government of Nagaland" and the "Peoples Republic of China", there has always been a permanent representative of the FGN in Beijing. The Beijing leadership took batches of Naga youths to different places in China in order to give them training. But it was mainly from 1972 that Beijing stepped up its help to the Naga insurgents.

                Batches of Naga, Meitei and Mizo insurgents went to China where they were welcomed as "brothers". Way back home, the insurgents came back with photos in which they posed with the Chinese officials against the Great Wall of China, Tiannamen Square etc. However, the batch which went to China in 1975 with Muivah could not penetrate back into Nagaland and Manipur. So, they established the Beijing backed camp in the Sahpa village in northeastern Myanmar where a large number of undergrounds lived. Since then this area has become a meeting point and training centre of the insurgent organisations of Northeastern India. It was reported that the leadership of the Burmese camp of the Nagas has signed an agreement of "mutual-co-operation" and "assistance" with the Communist Party of China instead of with the Government. Thus, it was the party that maintained relations with the insurgents. This means that at the Government level, a correct "diplomatic relation would be maintained by China, while all assistance would be made available to various insurgent groups".47 All these things were made possible under the good offices of the P.R.C.

                In 1987, there was a report in the newspapers that the Chinese had withdrawn the support to the insurgents. But it was only a temporary tactical move. The Chinese must have been disillusioned when the Mizo and Tripura insurgents signed accords of peace with the Indian Governments in 1986 and 1988 respectively.


                • #9
                  The Role of Pakistan and Bangladesh

                  Pakistan has been active in giving unabated support of finance, arms and political sinews to the Naga insurgents, to make them persist in terrorist acts and revolt against India. To foment Naga trouble and disintegrate India by straining its economy and diverting the Indian troops to Nagaland for relieving the pressure on Kashmir was Pakistan's long term strategy. In early 1962, Kaito Sema, the commander-in-chief of the Naga home guards went to Pakistan for training and to acquire arms for terrorist activities in India. On May 20, 1962, Phizo visited Karachi to oversee the training of the Naga underground men. Phizo, in a thankful mood towards Pakistan said in London on May 8, 1963, that in case of a plebiscite, Nagas would also have the choice to join Pakistan. Between 1962 and 1968, ten Naga groups visited Pakistan to procure monetary help and weaponry from Pakistan. The erstwhile East Pakistan had trained some 2,500 Naga underground men and had supplied a large amount of money and arms.48 Recently, Muivah was in Karachi before flying to Bangkok on January 19, 2000, where he was arrested by the Thai police on charges of travelling on a forged passport and subsequently for jumping bail. Such assistance continues at the behest of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which has built a nest in the jungles adjoining Manipur, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand.

                  What had led Britain, USA, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to extend support is not their genuine love for the people of Northeast India. The support is not for the real liberation of these people who have grievances. Their main purposes is to destabilise and weaken India. Even if for the time being some countries have stopped aiding Naga insurgents, the renewal of their support in future cannot be ruled out.


                  • #10
                    Excellent other artcile too on the Naga issue too if you have them.

                    Cheers!...on the rocks!!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by anil View Post
                      The sense of "ethno-nationalism" is not limited to the nagas. The indian observers just tend to focus absolutely on the nagas and mizos.
                      The meiteis in manipur, the people from the erstwhile glorious kingdom too reject foreign nationalism.[/QUOTE]

                      Let us stick to the Nagas in this thread, then we shall discuss the issue of other ethinic groups in other specific threads.

                      Last year, new delhi declared a policy change suspending all future ceasefire deals with militants in NE because the groups tended to split into more factions(intentionally?) leading to more players for the central govt to deal with.
                      New Delhi, plays around and pits one group against the other.

                      Cheers!...on the rocks!!


                      • #12
                        Chasing a chimeric peace

                        Come Assembly elections in Nagaland, orchestrated noises claiming that peace is within reach are bound to get louder. Political actors know that traumatised by decades of external and internal bloodletting, the Naga craves nothing more than peace. The recent demonstrations of competitive eagerness by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and Nagaland’s legislators to support the ‘peace’ purportedly being cooked between Delhi and the NSCN (IM) were nothing but drama. In a political two-step, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has assured the Nagas of a ‘peace’ gift before the elections early next year.

                        The Naga public, however, is all too familiar with this periodic show. They know that peace is a distant dream — not inherently distant but because Delhi, by design or default, makes it so. They know that by ignoring the crucial stakeholders and pampering a set of gun-toting men who have little resonance with the broad Naga family, Delhi might cobble together a deal — one that will bring anything but peace.

                        The polemics of the fractious Naga politics have been rendered more complex by Delhi’s reckless interventions. Instead of appreciating the intricacies of the Naga polity — comprising over 25 tribes, each a proud owner and inheritor of a distinct culture, language, tradition and geography, espousing a distinct world view, falling within the broad rubric of the Naga family — Delhi deals with it as if itwere a homogenous collective with common aspirations. Thus it believes that making a deal with one set would satisfy the rest. How else to explain its abiding faith in the peace process with the NSCN (IM), quintessentially an entity of Tangkhul tribes of Manipur, having little resonance with other Nagas notwithstanding its pan-Naga rhetoric?

                        Powerful groups ignored

                        There are other potent Naga militias aligned along tribal lines not in the orbit of the Centre’s peace enterprise. The NSCN (K) holds sway over almost the entire eastern Nagaland — nearly half the State and its people — and resonates well with the locals including the Konyaks, the largest of Naga tribes.

                        The NSCN (KK) — essentially a militia of the Sumis, one of the larger Naga tribes — control a large swathe of Nagaland adjoining Manipur and also has heavy presence in Dimapur district. The Naga National Council (NNC), the mother of all Naga militias though now a rump of its older self, deeply resonates with the Angamis, the second largest Naga tribe, and their kin tribes in Kohima and adjoining regions. Besides these militias, the traditional bodies that carry much weight with their respective tribes, are also not in the reckoning of Delhi’s peace enterprise.

                        The peace project, thus severely truncated, got further undermined with the exclusion of the Nagaland State government. I.K. Gujral, the Prime Minister who presided over the formalisation of engagement with the NSCN (IM) in 1997, decided to ignore the State government. He did it, in the face of professional advice to the contrary, to placate the belligerent Th. Muivah, the NSCN (IM) supremo. To Mr. Muivah, the popularly elected Nagaland government was illegitimate and S.C. Jamir, the then Chief Minister, was his bête noire. Nagaland and Delhi had different political dispensations at the helm then, making it easier for Mr. Gujral to ignore Mr. Jamir. Subsequent governments in Delhi preferred not to rock the boat and nonchalantly carried on with the charade.

                        Having achieved exclusion of the State government from the process, Mr. Muivah insisted on Mr. Jamir’s removal. He knew his biggest challenge was not managing a distant Delhi but an inconvenient Naga government at home. In the run-up to 2003 elections — the first after the ceasefire — he threw tantrums seeking Mr. Jamir’s dismissal and holding elections under President’s Rule. K. Padmanabhaiah, the Centre’s interlocutor, played along and sought to influence L.K. Advani, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. Mr. Advani was not moved, but the Assam Rifles — a Central force with the mandate to enforce the ceasefire rules and ensure that armed NSCN (IM) cadres remained confined to designated camps and did not interfere in the elections — turned a blind eye to widespread violations by the outfit.

                        Tactical alliance

                        Mr. Muivah’s boys had the field to themselves. They targeted candidates not aligned with the NSCN (IM). Popular cries for reining them in went unheard. Mr. Muivah had propped up Neiphiu Rio, a renegade Congressman turned acolyte who had forged a tactical electoral alliance with the BJP, the ruling party in Delhi.

                        Mr. Rio came to power and his government became a proxy for the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim (GPRN), of which Mr. Muivah is the self-styled ‘prime minister’. Many a times it became difficult to determine who ruled the State — Mr. Rio or Mr. Muivah.

                        With the State government’s backing, the NSCN (IM) sought to enlarge its footprint in Nagaland. Its manoeuvres provoked a fierce backlash from other Naga militias. Bloody clashes ensued. The State witnessed an unprecedented spike in violence until the rivals undid the military gains of the NSCN (IM) and restored the balance of power in their favour. Over 800 people were killed in about 1,500 bloody clashes with the NSCN (IM). Though constitutionally mandated to maintain public order, Mr. Rio extricated himself from his responsibility on the plea that the State government was not a party to the ‘peace process’ with the militias and it was for the Centre to rein them in.

                        Excluded from the ‘peace-process’ and its obligations, Mr. Rio was free to give currency to the ‘revolutionary’ vocabulary of ultra-Naga nationalists. He reversed previous State governments’ policy of ‘equidistance’ from all militias and advocated a policy of ‘equi-closeness’. He debunked the 16-point agreement between the Centre and the Naga People’s Convention in 1959 and called the Nagaland State, its product, illegitimate. Indeed, he tried to turn the clock of Naga history back to the 1950s, negating all the gains since then.

                        Misery in Manipur

                        Another crucial stakeholder excluded from the ongoing peace project is the Manipur government. Delhi’s hush-hush deal with the NSCN (IM) has devastated Manipur and brought untold miseries to its people. Since the professed objective of the outfit is to dismember the State and take away two-thirds of its territory, a protracted negotiation with it without the Manipur government on board has given room for wild speculations and stirred visceral existential fears among Manipuris. It resurrected the Metei insurgency. It has turned neighbours — the plainspeople and the hill people — into bitter enemies.

                        It is impossible to expect a sustainable peace from the ongoing process between Delhi and the NSCN (IM). An endeavour for peace that excludes crucial stakeholders is a travesty.
                        I don't share his optimism.

                        The actual scene here is that "the naga" is not one single community. The word was used to identify various hill tribes, most of them at war with each other. In the 1900s, these tribes envisioned joining forces, the common ground being that they were adivasis/tribals(hunter gatherers). These tribes have ethnic variations along with variations in linguistics, culture, dress and food habits. To make a long story short, someone clubbed together a bunch of very different tribes into an identity coined as "naga".

                        In recent history, the word "naga" has evolved into expansionist politics(tribals vs non-tribals or adivasis vs non-adivasis). In manipur, the hill tribes that once had nothing to do with the nagas have suddenly turned against the meities(non-tribals). Ethnically, chins, joined the "tribal" bandwagon and started started calling themselves "nagas". After the naga genocide over the chins in the 90s, they now call themselves "kukis", another new tribal identity.

                        In the 1900s, the protestant missionaries educated the tribes with concepts like nationality and ethnicity. After that the North-east frontier province has gradually erupted into multi ethno-national, tribal-national identity politics that new delhi can no longer handle. With each passing year, the NE societies are undergoing more factions. The militants have shifted engagements with new delhi from gun to peace talks with the condition of providing safe heavens to their militant camps across the tribal foothills. Political pressure from militant frontal orgs has stepped up and no one in delhi wants to bite this bullet. The current peace or ceasefire is because new delhi is holding the tiger by its tail.
                        Last edited by anil; 12 Feb 14,, 08:48.