Although the decades-old Naga insurgency problem is yet to come to a close, there was some glimmer of hope when Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio asserted a "breakthrough" in the ongoing negotiations between the Centre and the rebel groups through a series of tweets to clinch the matter within the framework of the Constitution of India.
"It is a historic moment and an occasion of great joy for all Nagas and the nation as a whole. Peace will now pave the way for genuine progress and true nation-building," Rio said in a tweet.
Lauding the Centre's interlocutor, Governor RN Ravi, for bringing the biggest Naga insurgent outfit, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN (I-M) on board for talks, the Nagaland chief minister said, "Congratulations to Shri RN Ravi, NSCN (IM) and NNPGs for the efforts and sacrifices. Also, appreciation to the civil societies, mass-based organisations, NGOs, churches and the Naga people for the support and prayers."
We extend our deepest appreciation to the negotiating parties of the peace talks for making the historic breakthrough. Thank you Honourable @PMOIndia Shri @narendramodi and @AmitShah for the political will and concern for the #Naga people.
— Neiphiu Rio (@Neiphiu_Rio) October 31, 2019
"We praise God Almighty and look forward to a new era for the Naga people," he added.
Though the final agreement for the Naga peace talks was not signed on the scheduled day of 31 October, on Thursday reports said that both parties concurred that the peace accord, which was inked in 2015, will be based on the constitutional framework.
On Thursday, the Centre agreed to allow the use of the Naga flag at cultural events. This created rumours that the Naga settlement has been arrived at, leading to anxiety and concerns in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. However, the home ministry later clarified that no deal has been signed yet and warned people to stave off rumours and misinformation.
"This is creating anxiety and concern in some parts of the country. It is clarified that before any settlement is arrived at with Naga groups, all stakeholders including states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh will be duly consulted and their concerns will be taken into consideration. No credence needs to be given to such rumours and incorrect information," the MHA statement said.
With hope marking the conclusion of the fifth day of talks and the Naga people keen on a "positive outcome", let's take a look at the oldest insurgency, which now appears to be nearing its final phase.
Who are the Nagas and what is the issue irking them?
When the British annexed Assam in 1826, the Naga hills became a part of British India in 1881. The community of the Nagas, which comprises several hundred tribes, lives across the Naga hills spanning the length of Nagaland, certain areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, along with the Naga hill areas in present-day Myanmar.
One of the fundamental demands of this long-standing dispute with the Centre is the formation of the autonomous region of Greater Nagalim, which would include all these areas.
The first sign of rebellion 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".
In 1946, the Naga National Council (NNC) came into being under the leadership Angami Zapu Phizo, also known as Father of the Nagas, who declared Nagaland an independent state on 14 August, 1947.
The NNC resolved to establish a "sovereign Naga state" and conducted a "referendum" in 1951, in which "99 percent" supported an "independent" Nagaland.
After Phizo formed the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA) on 22 March, 1952, the scuffle with the Government of India spurred.
When did the Naga movement become violent?
Shortly after the formation of the NFG and the NFA, the government viewed them as a threat to the democracy. Such was the pressing need that it sent the army to crush the insurgency and in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, giving the army judicial impunity in matters of internal security.
This resulted into both of them giving up arms by signing the Shillong Accord with the Centre in the 1970s. However, the insurgency gained steam once again in 1980 with the formation of the NNC breakaway faction, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). The three key members being – Thuingaleng Muivah, Isak Chishi Swu, and SS Khaplang.
Under the leadership of Muivah, a group of 140 NSCN members refused the Shillong Accord and a decade of violence catapulted in the North East.
What was the purpose of the NSCN?
However, following a violent clash, the NSCN split into two groups – NSCN (Isak-Muivah) and the NSCN (Khaplang) in 1980 and 1988, respectively. While the former faction was led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah with the demand to establish a Greater Nagalim based on Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong’s model, on another hand, the Khaplang offshoot wished to establish Greater Nagalim based on ethnicity and merging of Naga-dominated areas.
With the death of Khaplang in 2017, the NSCN (Khaplang) faction had a diminishing political significance. And since Isak passed away in 2016, Muivah the most senior Naga rebel leader.
When and How did the peace talks with NSCN (I-M) begin?
Former prime ministr Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Muivah, Swu and other top NSCN (IM) leaders in Paris on 30 September, 1998. A ceasefire agreement was signed between the government and the NSCN (IM) on 25 July, 1997, which came into effect on 1 August, 1997.
After coming to power in 2014, the Narendra Modi government continued from where Vajpayee had left. In August 2015, after two decades of the Naga separatist movement, the Centre signed a framework agreement with the NSCN (IM) in the presence of Modi. The agreement paved the way for the ongoing peace talks by derecognising the outfit as a militant organisation.
Over 80 rounds of talks between the two sides were held subsequently, which assured the Nagas about the seriousness of the central government to settle the dispute. In a bid to iron out differences, the Centre clubbed various divisions among the Nagas on tribal and geopolitical lines into the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs).
What was the agenda of peace talks?
The cards on the table are issues on AFSPA, demographic changes due to cross-border migrations, a separate Naga flag and separate constitution for the Nagas.
How have Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh reacted?
While the Naga rebel outfits were able to get the Centre to the table for talks, the neighbouring states — Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur — wouldn't allow would allow even an inch of their land to be added to a "Greater Nagalim".
They are sceptical about the demand for creation of Greater Nagalim because it could lead to the redrawing of their boundaries.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 02, 2019 17:30:28 IST