30th October – Naga Peace Talks

The deadline set by the Centre for wrapping up the Naga peace talks, October 31, arrives this week. While the Centre’s interlocutor and now Nagaland’s Governor, R N Ravi, has stressed that the government intends to meet the deadline, some key issues remain unresolved with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah), or NSCN(I-M).

What are the Naga Peace Talks?

  • The talks seek to settle disputes that date back to colonial rule. The Nagas are not a single tribe, but an ethnic community that comprises several tribes who live in the state of Nagaland and its neighbourhood. One key demand of Naga groups has been a Greater Nagalim that would cover not only the state of Nagaland but parts of neighbouring states, and even of Myanmar.
  • The British had annexed Assam in 1826, in which they subsequently created the Naga Hills district and went on to extend its boundaries. The assertion of Naga nationalism, which began during British rule, has continued after Independence, and even after Nagaland became a state. Along the way, the unresolved issues gave rise to decades of insurgency that claimed thousands of lives, including of civilians.

Background –

  • The earliest sign of Naga resistance dates back to 1918, with the formation of the Naga Club. In 1929, the Club famously told the Simon Commission “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”.
  • In 1946, A Z Phizo formed the Naga National Council (NNC), which declared Naga independence on August 14, 1947, and then, in 1951, claimed to have conducted a referendum in which an overwhelming majority supported an independent Naga state.
  • By the early 1950s, the NNC had taken up arms and gone underground. The NNC split in 1975, the breakaway group being the NSCN, which split further in later years, most prominently into the NSCN(I-M) and NSCN (Khaplang) in 1988.

The agreements –

  • 1975: A peace accord was signed in Shillong in which the NNC leadership agreed to give up arms. Several NNC leaders, including Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S S Khaplang refused to accept the agreement and broke away to form the NSCN. In 1988 came another split, with Khaplang breaking away to form the NSCN(K) while Isak and Muivah headed the NSCN(I-M).
  • 1997: The NSCN(I-M ) signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 1997, preceded by rounds of talks since 1995. The key agreement was that there would be no counter-insurgency offensive against the NSCN(I-M), who in turn would not attack Indian forces. The NSCN(I-M) had then announced to “every citizen of Nagalim wherever they may be”, that a ceasefire agreement was entered into between the Government of India and the outfit “to bring about a lasting political solution to the long drawn out Indo-Naga issue”.
  • 2015: In August that year, the Centre signed a framework agreement with the NSCN(I-M). Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as a “historic agreement” towards settling the “oldest insurgency” in India. This set the stage for the ongoing peace talks. In 2017, six other Naga armed outfits under the banned of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) joined the talks.
  • Today, Muivah remains the senior-most Naga rebel leader. Isak died in 2016. In the NSCN(-K), its leader Khaplang died in 2018.

Key issues –

The government and the NSCN(I-M) have failed to agree on issues relating to a separate Naga flag and a constitution. In its latest statement, the NSCN(I-M) has said it will not budge from the demand for the flag and the constitution — and that it is looking for a lasting solution.

SourceThe Indian Express

QUESTIONThrow some light on the progress of Naga Peace Talks. Why the issue has not yet been resolved since the last seven decades?

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