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Nagaland Nationalism


Soon after India gained independence from British colonial authority in August 1947, the demand for the establishment of a sovereign independent state of Nagaland by the Naga people living in the country's northeast region rife with armed strife (Singh, 2013) presented the greatest obstacle. The Nagas were the first to dispute India's nationhood upon independence. Pan-Naga nationalism emerged out of political, territorial, and social consciousness, culminating in the establishment of the Naga club in 1918. This was a watershed moment in the history of the Naga resistance movement since it marked the birth of the region's first organised political movement (Shimray, 2005).

Naga identity became stronger following the establishment of the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946. This council sparked a push for regional autonomy and the establishment of a separate electorate for the region (Chadha, 2009). In February 1947, the NNC presented the British with a paper requesting an interim government. This culminated in a nine-point agreement that affirmed Nagas' right to self-development in accordance with their freely expressed aspirations. However, because of a disagreement between the central government and Phizo over the final point of the agreement, the revolution against the Indian government began on 14 August 1947.

Under Phizo's leadership, the NNC gained momentum following the referendum, popularly known as the Naga Plebiscite, held on 16 May 1951, in which 99.9 per cent voted for Nagaland's independence. However, the plebiscite's validity remains questionable. Following the separation of the NNC into various factions and the establishment of its breakaway function, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) also split into two factions: the Isak-Muivah faction (NSCN-IM) and the Khaplang faction (NSCN-K). These organisations have continued to wage separate violent campaigns for Nagaland's independence (Kumar, 2018). A recent peace pact between Naga insurgent factions led by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the Government of India in August 2015 raised the prospect of putting an end to the state's long-running separatist movement.

Peace Initiatives

Shillong Accord (1975): In Shillong, a peace accord was struck in which the NNC leadership promised to disarm. However, other leaders refused to sign the accord, resulting in the NNC's split.

Ceasefire Agreement (1997): The NSCN-IM and the government struck a ceasefire agreement to halt attacks on Indian army personnel. In exchange, the government would halt all offensive counter-insurgency operations.

The Government of India recognised the Nagas' unique history, culture, and status, as well as their sentiments and ambitions, in this agreement.

Recently, the State government decided to create a Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland, but the decision was later put on hold due to pressure from various factions.

Issues: While the 2015 deal appeared to broaden the scope of the peace process, it raised suspicions about the central government manipulating tribal and geopolitical differences within the Nagas. Integration of contiguous Naga-inhabited areas in Manipur, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh in response to the demand for territorial unification of 'Greater Nagalim' will result in violent clashes in the various affected states. Another significant impediment to the peace process in Nagaland is the emergence of multiple organisations claiming to represent the Nagas. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 provides certain special powers to members of the armed forces in areas in the Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The powers were also extended to forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir as well. The Act was first promulgated by the Britishers to suppress the Quit India movement in 1942.AFSPA gives armed forces broad authority to maintain public order in "disturbed areas." The act is dubbed draconian because it allows armed personnel to prohibit a gathering of five or more people in a given area, use force, or even open fire after giving due warning if they believe a person is breaking the law.

The Path Forward

To achieve long-lasting peace, the Centre must negotiate with all of the Insurgents' factions and groups. Additionally, their cultural, historical, and territorial scopes must be considered. Any agreement reached should result in social and political harmony, economic prosperity, and the protection of life and property for all tribes and state citizens. Another way to address the issue is through maximum decentralisation of authority to tribal heads and minimal centralization at the apex level, which should focus on governance and large-scale development projects.

Greater autonomy for Naga-inhabited areas in these states is possible, including separate budget allocations for Naga-inhabited areas' culture and development.

Additionally, the Centre must bear in mind that the majority of armed insurgencies worldwide do not end in complete victory or defeat, but rather in a grey zone known as 'compromise.' Regional ambitions are a necessary component of representative government. Rather than suppressing them, they need to be dealt with properly and negotiated instead of ignored. Such demands for self-determination can be met within the Indian constitution's provisions. Dissatisfaction can be exacerbated by socioeconomic inequalities, so these must be addressed.


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