Overview: Insurgency & Peace Efforts in Nagaland

Insurgency

obilisation by the Naga separatists to establish an independent land for the Nagas began before India’s independence. The idea of an independent Nagaland is based on the premise that Nagas have been historically independent, conquered by none and therefore India has no right to subjugate them. Naga representative organizations, during the British rule over India, petitioned the government to address their concerns of being subjugated to an alien culture after the departure of the British. Though the British made special provisions for the administration of the hill tribes, it was clearly short of endorsing their demand for independence. Subsequently, during India’s independence, Nagas, under the Naga National Council (NNC) appealed to the Indian National Congress to set them free. Faced with a rejection, the NNC under Angami Zapu Phizo declared independence of Nagaland on August 14, 1947, and sought to endorse it with what he claimed a plebiscite held on May 16, 1951 in which 99 per cent of the population had voted in favour of independence.

A massive crackdown on NNC took place in 1953 when troops in large numbers were moved by the Government of India into the Naga hills. Under the initiative of Phizo, on March 22, 1956, an underground government called the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA) was created. In order to fight for the dream of an independent Naga homeland, Phizo left Nagaland in December 1956 and arrived London in 1960 and kept pursuing his dream from London until his death in December 1990. His daughter Adinno Phizo, the now NNC president, is still pursuing that dream from her home in London.

The State of Nagaland was formed by the Government of India on December 1, 1963. The government’s initiative was vehemently condemned by the NNC and pointed out that these are measures to divide the Naga people. A ‘Peace Mission’ was formed which resulted in the signing of an Agreement for Suspension of Operation (AGSOP) with the insurgents on September 6, 1964. But violence continued and six rounds of talks between the Centre and insurgents failed. The ‘Peace Mission’ broke in 1967.

The Government of India banned the NNC in 1972 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 and launched a massive counter-insurgency operation. On November 11, 1975, the Shillong Accord was signed between NNC and the Government of India where the NNC cadres accepted “without condition, the Constitution of India”. However, a section of the NNC rebelled against the accord and formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980. Tribal differences led to a split in the NSCN in 1988 leading to the birth of Isak-Muivah faction (NSCN-IM) and the Khaplang faction (NSCN-K). Both these outfits continued their movement with an avowed objective of establishing a Nagalim (greater Nagaland) comprising Naga inhabited areas of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring Myanmar.

On August 1, 1997, the NSCN-IM and the Union government entered into a ceasefire agreement and have since held more than 60 rounds of dialogue (until May 2010) to resolve the conflict. A similar ceasefire agreement was signed between the NSCN-K and the government in April 2001, though both sides are yet to start a process of dialogue. The ceasefire agreements with both the outfits have been periodically extended.
The NSCN-IM is the most powerful outfit in Nagaland, though it no longer enjoys the same strength and power it used to hold earlier. Its influence is visible over vast stretches of Nagaland’s six to seven districts. Despite the ceasefire, the outfit has continued with its extortion activities and carried out attacks on the rival outfits although the scale of violence started declining by end 2008. The NSCN-K has managed to hold on to its areas of influence, primarily in districts like Mokokchung, Tuensang and pockets in Dimapur. The outfit’s strength lies in its facilities in the Sagaing division within Myanmar, in spite of the sporadic operations by the Myanmarese army. The NNC, on the other hand, remains a poor shadow of the erstwhile outfit that initiated the Naga insurgency.

After the creation of Unification faction of the NSCN (NSCN-U) in November 2007, the situation in Nagaland further worsened. The NSCN-U was formed as a result of a ‘truce agreement’ signed between senior functionaries of both IM and K factions on November 23, 2007 at Hovishe under the Niuland sub-division in Dimapur district. However, the NSCN-IM leadership did not accept the truce agreement. Since then, the NSCN-U was into continuous clashes with the IM faction and it had the backing of the NSCN-K. However, the unification faction of NSCN has not been involved in much incidents since 2009.

Extortion activities in the State have been also on a rise during the last few years. The militant groups have been continuously collecting ‘tax’ from the people and business establishments. This money is collected from all sources, including from Government departments and the extortion network spreads over not only the cities like Dimapur, Kohima and various District headquarters and townships but also over almost all the 1317 villages of the state. ‘Tax’ is also collected from commercial vehicles plying on National Highway 39, en route, to Manipur. Neither the Central nor the state Government is taking any action against this ‘tax collection’ by the militants.

The ceasefire rules, which stipulate that the militants stay in designated camps, ban their movement in uniform and with arms and prohibit extortion, are also not followed by the militants. The cadres of the militant outfits move freely with their arms out in open and carry out all sorts of extortion activities. The police, Army and Central Para-Military forces were unable to take any significant steps in this regard for quite sometime but things appear to have been brought under control by 2009 and the insurgency-related incidents are steadily decelerating in the state compared to the previous years.

On 27 November, 2009, the Nagaland legislative assembly decided to give legitimacy to the six-decade-long insurgency going on in the state. The assembly resolved to “recognize” the Naga underground movement and their leaders, saying that they have “selflessly worked, fought and sacrificed for the aspirations and the rights of the Nagas, and also to those who continue to follow the tradition of selfless sacrifices for the common cause of the Nagas”. The resolution, moved by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, was endorsed by the entire 60-member house, including 19 opposition Congress party legislators.

In spite of the thirteen year old ceasefire with the NSCN-IM and the nine year old ceasefire with the rival Khaplang faction (NSCN-K), the situation in Nagaland is still volatile. Insurgency-related fatalities have been on a rise during the last few years in the state, though the situation is improving after 2008. Between 1992 and 2010 (till July 31), at least 2337 insurgency related fatalities have been recorded in Nagaland. The number of fatalities in insurgency-related activities fell drastically from 201 in 2008 to 17 in 2009 and in 2010 only 3 fatalities were reported from the state. (source: www.satp.org)

On March 2, 2010, NSCN-IM delegation, lead by its chairman Isak Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, met the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi. The Naga leaders also held a series of meetings with the new interlocutor for naga peace talks, R.S Pandey during their stay in New Delhi. The visiting NSCN (IM) delegation put forward 30 demands, which included sovereignty for Nagaland, and unification of all Naga-dominated areas of neighbouring states.

After the talks Muivah came to Dimapur and decided to visit his native village Somdal in Ukhrul district of Manipur. This was to be his first visit to his birth place after 40 years. The union government also granted his request and the visit was scheduled to take place during first week of May. Muivah was also expected to visit other Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur during the visit. But, on April 30, 2010, Manipur government announced that it would not allow Muivah to come to Manipur as there are possibilities of disturbances if the NSCN-IM leader comes to Manipur. The government also clamped restriction under Section 144 of CrPC in Senapati district in addition to deployment of additional forces in order to prevent Muivah from entering Manipur. On May 6, 2010, the situation in Mao border gate, through which Muivah was expected to enter Manipur, turned tense. A number of locals stormed a temporary security barrack which lead the security personnel resort to firing leaving two locals dead and fifty others, including women, injured. After this incident and after requests from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and some Naga civil society organizations, Muivah postponed his visit to Somdal and camped himself in Viswema village near the Mao gate on the inter-state border of Nagaland and Manipur. Eventually, on June 5, 2010, the Central Government persuaded Muivah to leave Vishwema village where he had been camping since May 6, 2010. The blockade of NH-39 was lifted on June 18, 2010 after negotiations with different Naga groups.

On October 1, 2010 security forces arrested Anthony Shimray, a senior NSCN (IM) functionary from Kathmandu in Nepal. Shimray was the chief arms procurer for the outfit and had been involved in gun running for a long time.

Peace Efforts

Civil society movements in Nagaland have been traditionally effective. The Church has been an important player in peace making among the insurgents, almost all of whom are Christian, since the beginning of the conflict. The Baptist Church Council of Nagaland played a prominent part in the formation of the Peace Mission in 1964. In July 1997, the Baptist Church organised the Atlanta Peace meet where the NSCN leadership accepted initiatives to start an unconditional dialogue process. In the first week of November 2007, a group of Church workers from the United Kingdom arrived in Nagaland to push for “reconciliation” between the NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K. A team from the North American Baptist Church too is involved in brokering peace between both the factions.

Organisations like the Naga Hoho and the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA) have worked towards reconciliation among the warring factions. Even the tribal councils belonging to the different tribes in the state including the Ao Senden, the Sumi Hoho have tried to establish unity among the NSCN-IM and NSCN-K, albeit without much success. Organisations like the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) that periodically highlights the alleged abuses by the security forces, are seen as placating the interests of the NSCN-IM and have no influence on either the NSCN-K or the NNC. Some leaders of the NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K met in Niuland, near Dimapur on November 23, 2007 to declare the cessation of hostility between the outfits. However, the agreement was soon repudiated by both the outfits and the clashes have continued.

The citizens of the state are also now taking initiatives for bringing peace in the state. On May 20, 2008, peace rallies were organized in all the 11 district headquarter towns by the gaon buras (village chiefs) and dubashis (chiefs of Naga customary courts), asking the warring Naga factions to stop violence. In June 2008, a reconciliation meeting of the Naga factions, mass-based Naga organisations and tribal Hohos was organised by the Naga Reconciliation Forum, headed by Baptist clergyman Wati Aier, Baptist World Alliance and a UK-based Quaker group, at Chiang Mai in Thailand. But, the NSCN-K rejected the offer made by the rival NSCN-IM for a dialogue outside the country and the move failed.

Extending the existing ceasefire with both the outfits remains central to the government’s conflict management policy in Nagaland. Representatives of the NSCN-IM and the government continue to meet periodically to carry forward the negotiations. By far, however, little success has been achieved to break the deadlock over the outfit’s demand of integrating the ‘Naga-inhabited’ areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland. Both the government and the NSCN-IM, however, on 31 July 2007, following a round of dialogue in Dimapur, took a decision to extend the ceasefire indefinitely. A few more round of talks have taken place since then in Delhi, but there were no concrete outcome of the talks.

In August 2009, the Central Government wound up the term of K Padmanabhaiah as interlocutor for talks with NSCN-IM. Centre then appointed RS Pandey as the new interlocutor on February 12, 2010. The new interlocutor held talks with the NSCN-IM leadership on March 2010 in New Delhi, in which the NSCN (IM) delegation put forward 30 demands, which included sovereignty for Nagaland, and unification of all Naga-dominated areas of neighbouring states. However, the demand for sovereignty for Nagaland and its territorial claims over portions of neighbouring states was categorically rejected.

The government in New Delhi has done little in terms of stopping the internecine clashes between the outfits. It insists that the clashes between the insurgent outfits are a law and order problem, to be handled by the state government. The Nagaland state government, on the contrary, has always been a marginal player in contributing to the peace process. Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio, is on record claiming that such clashes are a part of the ‘political problem’ ‘between India and Nagaland’, thus indicating that these would continue as long as the ‘conflict over Nagalim’ is not resolved. The internecine war has claimed more than 500 lives during 2004-2010 and it still remains the biggest obstacle in establishing peace in the state.

The civil society organizations in Nagaland such as the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, the Naga Hoho and many other women’s and students’ organizations have played an important role in laying the groundwork for the emergence of lasting peace in the region. These are the actors who are working as a bridge between the various regions which comprises Nagalim, in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and parts of Myanmar; and without any substantial political overtones. They have been successful in reaching out to communities, both Naga and other ethnic tribes, and promoting dialogue and understanding at the civil society level between contesting aspirations of communities in the region, which the political outfits engaged in talks have not been able to do. They have joined efforts to talk to top rebel leaders to stop fratricidal killings among Naga insurgent factions and extortions and threats, and to include more women in the peace talks.

The Church-led Forum for Naga Reconciliation, which has representatives from 42 community groups as well as the militant outfits, orgainsed several reconciliatory meetings both within and outside the country. Two such meetings were organised at Chiang Mai in Thailand in June and September 2009. The NSCN-IM, NSCN-K and NNC made a "declaration of commitment" in the September meet and decided to work together for solving the Naga issues. But still there cannot be seen any improvement in the relation between the various militant factions and the fratricidal clashes still continue in Nagaland.

On June 1, 2010, Centre and NSCN (IM) held peace talks for the first time in Nagaland at Kohima, where the issue of integration of Naga-inhabited areas, as demanded by the outfit, was discussed. However, the Centre ruled out change in boundaries of states without the consensus of political parties. Both sides came to an understanding on some issues and expressed their commitment to explore all possibilities to arrive at a consensus on other sensitive issues.

On June 4, 2010 Muivah moved to Pfutsero in Phek district on a “Goodwill mission”. In the same month he visited Jotsoma village near Kohima, Pughoboto in Zunheboto district, Tuensang and Peren as a part of his peace mission where he held consultations with civil society leaders on the Naga talks issue.

Two more rounds of talks were held in Delhi with the Centre on July 23 and July 29, 2010 with both the sides expressing satisfaction over the way the talks are progressing.

(Updated till 26 January, 2011)