North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

Status of the Naga Peace Talks


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Various Naga tribes

Mains level: Naga Peace Process

The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released a report on insurgency-related incidents in Nagaland.

It recently said that the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was involved in 44% of insurgency-related incidents in 2020.

Why in news?

  • The Union government had, in 2015, signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM to find a solution to the Naga political issue.
  • The negotiations are yet to be concluded.

Who are the Nagas?

  • The term Naga was created by the British for administrative convenience to refer to a group of tribes with similar origins but distinct cultures, dialects, and customs.
  • The Naga tribes are accumulated in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Myanmar.

Why did the Naga insurgency begin?

  • Residing in the Naga hills of Assam during the advent of the British and the annexation of Assam in 1820, the Nagas did not consider themselves a part of British India.
  • The British adopted a way of governance over the Nagas that involved keeping in place their traditional ways of life, customs, and laws while putting British administrators at the top.
  • At the time of the withdrawal of the British, insecurity grew among the Naga tribes about the future of their cultural autonomy after India’s independence.
  • This was accompanied by the fear of the entry of “plains people” or “outsiders” into their territory.

Do you know?

In a memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929, representatives of Naga tribes demanded that Nagas be left free after Independence and not be included in the Indian Union.

Collective actions of the Nagas

  • Above mentioned factors gave rise to the formation of the Naga Hills District Tribal Council in 1945, which was renamed the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946.
  • Amid uncertainties over the post-independence future of the Nagas, a section of the NNC, led by Naga leader A.Z. Phizo declared the independence of the Nagas on August 14, 1947.
  • The underground insurgency began in the early 1950s when Mr. Phizo founded the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and its armed wing, the Naga Federal Army (NFA).

Outcome of the then insurgency

  • The Central Government sent the armed forces into Naga areas to curb the insurgency.
  • It imposed the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which is still in place in parts of Nagaland.
  • The Nagas, led by Mr. Phizo, demanding an independent state outside of India, boycotted the 1952 and 1957 general elections and armed clashes grew.
  • Unlike other groups in the north east which were accepting some form of autonomy under the Constitution, Nagas rejected this in favour of sovereignty.

Negotiations with the govt

  • Some leaders among the NNC formed their own group to hold discussions with the government, leading to the formation of the State of Nagaland in 1963.
  • This, however, did not satisfy many in the NNC and NFG, who, following years of negotiations with the government, eventually signed the Shillong Accord of 1975, agreeing to surrender arms and accept the Constitution.

When did the NSCN come into the picture?

  • This signing of the Shillong Accord was not agreeable with many top leaders of the NNC and those operating from Myanmar.
  • A/c to them, the agreement did not address the issue of Naga sovereignty and coerced them to accept the Constitution.
  • Three NNC rebel leaders, formed the National Socialist Council Of Nagaland (NSCN) to continue the armed movement for ‘independence’.

Again split in NSCN

  • In 1988, after years of infighting and violent clashes along tribal lines and over the main cause of the movement, the NSCN split into two factions.
  • One, led by Mr. Muiwah and Swu called the NSCN-IM and the other, led by Mr. Khaplang called the NSCN-K.
  • The NSCN-IM demanded and continues to demand for ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim.
  • It wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The NSCN-IM has now grown to become the most powerful insurgent group, also playing a role in the creation of smaller groups in other States.

Where do the peace talks stand now?

  • In 1997, the Government of India got the NSCN-IM to sign a ceasefire agreement to begin the holding of talks with the aim of signing a Naga Peace Accord.
  • After this ceasefire, there have been over a hundred rounds of talks spanning over 24 years between the Centre and the insurgent group, while a solution is still awaited.

Issues of contention

  • Independence celebration: Nagas across Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh celebrate August 14 as Independence Day. According to Naga historians, Gandhi agreed that the Nagas would celebrate their independence a day ahead of India, on August 14, 1947.
  • Naga flag: In the Naga narrative, passed down generations by word of mouth, the Naga flag was not designed by a mortal but is of divine origin.
  • Secessionist tendencies: A large section of the Nagas still holds dear the idea of the Naga identity and their tribal roots.

Way ahead

  • The Naga struggle claimed thousands of lives over decades and devastated countless homes, all over the idea of a sovereign Naga nation.
  • If the NSCN (I-M) accedes to economic and political packages alone, without a separate flag and constitution, it remains to be seen whether it will be seen as a solution, or as a defeat.


Also read,

[Burning Issue] Naga Peace Talks

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