The Naga Problems and its future
Nagaland is the north-eastern state of India. It borders the state of Assam to the west, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam to the north, Myanmar to the east, and Manipur to the south. Known for its ethnic society and varied customs and cultures it is the state which has always been in the news for its unique relationship with the rest of the country.
The ethnic community also referred by the name Nagas residing in Nagaland has always been on discord with the Indian government. 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”. But even after the departure of the British, Nagas were not ready to be amalgamated with India. In 1946 the Naga National Council (NNC) was formed which 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. The Government of India sent in the Army to deal with insurgency and, in 1958 , Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was enacted. A group of about 140 members led by Thuingaleng Muivah formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in 1980. In 1988, the NSCN split into NSCN(IM) and NSCN(K) after a violent clash. The NSCN(IM) enunciated that a “Greater Nagalim” comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with Nagaland and several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, a large tract of Myanmar should be formed and it should be placed under one administrative umbrella”. The Nagaland Assembly has endorsed the proposal. The demand also includes the separate Naga Yezabo (Constitution) and Naga national flag. Nagas claimed sovereignty on the basis of prior sovereign existence and differences, which is today expressed in terms of “uniqueness”.
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The lingering problems have not been able to subside down. Armed Cadres or Military Wing of insurgent groups remains intact inspite of ceasefire and despite suspension of operations and have not shrunk, neither their resources have dried up which remains a constant threat to peace in the region. The insurgent groups collect huge amounts of money forcefully from the Nagas as well as the Non-Nagas. There are violent differences between th
e NSCN (IM) and the NSCN (K) led by S.S. Khaplang which are a huge roadblock for any accord to succeed in the region. One of the major drivers of any insurgent movement is ideological belief and hope of success. However, the Naga movement seems to have lost its original goals and ideological stand on the basis of which it was initially established.
The leaders and cadres now seem to be motivated by the more materialistic benefits coming out of the conflict and most of the Naga insurgent groups are no more than extortion and crime syndicates. Government has often exploited villager’s land for their resources, violating the constitution which results in corrosion of the tribal’s belief in any governmental scheme. Despite resource rich region, development has remained a distant dream for tribal people with very few jobs and scarcity of basic amenities.
Government Of India has left no stone unturned to conclude the peace talks with the Nagas and put an end to the insurgency prevailing in the area. In 2015, the Centre signed a framework agreement with the NSCN(I-M).Prime Minister Narendra Modi described this as a “historic agreement” towards settling the “oldest insurgency” in India. Not much content has been disclosed of this framework. The new governor, RN Ravi who is also the Interlocutor for the Naga peace talks, in a statement said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he has been determined and diligent to honorably conclude the Naga Peace Process, which has been going for over 22 years. They are of the view that a mutually agreed draft comprehensive settlement, including all the substantive issues and competencies, is ready for inking the final agreement. PM Modi has also assured the Nagas who are in a state of panic with the revocation of article 370 that their rights will also be snatched away that the special constitutional provisions for Nagaland under Article 371(A) was the result of over three years of negotiation between the people of Nagaland and the central government and will not be done away with.
NSCN-IM in a statement stated that Government of India and her agencies are at work sleeplessly to exploit vulnerabilities to pull away many Naga individuals or groups with monetary baits and other highly rated economic packages. The government before reaching any conclusion should also tackle and cater to the needs and demands of the Nagas. If the government is not able to satisfy the people it will result in new revolutionary Naga movement, which will be much dangerous due to globalisation, greater availability of resources for sustaining any rebellion, and greater scope for international intervention in case of a violent struggle.
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A few steps the government can jot down are that a greater understanding of the issue, especially the tribal factor and changing aspirations of the civil society, needs to be developed in order to bring an acceptable and comprehensive solution to the Naga problem. Decentralization of power should be done with more power being allotted to the tribal heads. It should not threaten the present territorial boundaries of the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh as it will not be acceptable to these states. A constitutional body should be constituted to look into issues related to Nagas in their whole territorial spread. Any arrangement thus worked out should lead to social and political harmony, economic prosperity and protection of the life and property of all tribes and citizens of the states.
Thus the future of the agreement between the government of India and the Nagas is shrouded in the clouds of mystery and we all can only hope that the results which unveil from this darkness should not hamper the progress of the nation plunging it into another never ending wars instead every sphere of the party involved in the conflict should be able to grow above the differences and by catering to each other’s need are also able to achieve what they desire.