Intricacies of core issue in Naga insurgency

Sunil Thongam *

Ten policemen escorting the Speaker of the Nagaland State Assembly were killed by NSCN cadres on August 14, 1991. Thirteen members of the NNC (NFG) were killed by NSCN rebels on August 13, 1992. It was reported the killing was in retaliation for the alleged cooperation of the NNC with the Indian army in a crackdown on an NSCN camp.

The Naga outfit used guerilla warfare in targeting the Government's armed forces, police and their support units before signing a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in 1997. The physical environment has remained conducive to guerilla operations in Nagaland, Manipur and other North Eastern States. The region has large areas with heavy jungle or mountains and poor roads.

The NSCN (IM) had been fighting in their own homeland. They used their familiarity with the local landscape and terrain to their advantage. History says that use of guerrilla warfare was first suggested in the 6th century BC by Chinese general and strategist Sun Tzu, in his classic book, The Art of War.

Mao Zedong in China and Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam also used guerrilla warfare. In India, the Marathas used guerilla warfare successfully against the Mughals in the 17th century.

The Naga imbroglio is yet to end. The NSCN (IM) has said Nagas will co-exist with India but will not merge with it. The outfit has firmed up on the demand for shared sovereignty between Indian and Nagalim. NSCN (IM) has insisted on co-existing together under shared sovereignty.

Sovereignty does not mean independence. Sovereignty means the right to self-rule, while independence means the right to sole rule. Shared sovereignty implies the co-existence and interdependence of two entities.

Thuingaleng Muivah (87) hails from Somdal in Manipur's Ukhrul district which is the home of the Tangkhul tribes. Muivah is the General Secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM, or NSCN (IM). He left his native village about 50 years ago to wage an armed struggle.

He joined the Naga National Council (NNC), an armed group campaigning for secession of Nagaland from India. Muivah subsequently became the General Secretary of NNC. A group of NNC leaders signed the Shillong Accord of 1975 with the Government of India. Muivah and some others denounced this group as traitors. The Shillong Accord accepted the Indian Constitution which was the main reason for Muivah and his team to part ways.

A faction led by Isak Chishi Swu, SS Khaplang and Muivah quit NNC to form the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) in 1980. The NSCN continued secessionist activities abandoned by the NNC. But the NSCN later split into NSCN (IM) led by Isak Chishi Swu and Muivah, and NSCN (K) led by Khaplang due to major disagreements.

The NSCN now has four factions—the Isak-Muivah faction, the NSCN-K splinter headed by Khole Konyak, the NSCN-K headed by Khaplang, and NSCN-Unification. NSCN (IM) under the leadership of Muivah and Swu signed a ceasefire agreement with the Government of India in August 1997. The major breakthrough of the Naga peace talk took place on August 3, 2015 with the signing of a peace accord with the Centre.

Naga National Flag was hoisted in different areas of Nagaland and Manipur on August 14 this year to mark the Naga independence day. Thuingaleng Muivah on the occasion had said that the Naga Flag and Constitution were indivisible parts of the recognized sovereignty and unique history.

In his speech to mark the 76th Naga Independence Day, the Naga separatist politician said, "Sovereignty is our birthright, which should be defended at all costs."

"The Naga Flag and Constitution are indivisible parts of the recognized sovereignty and unique history," Muivah had said. NSCN (IM) has been demanding a separate Flag and Constitution which the Centre had rejected.

It is quite clear to the Naga Nationalist separatist group now that the demand for sovereignty and a 'Greater Nagaland' is neither feasible nor attainable. The solution to the Naga problem has remained stalled even after 25 years of political talks due to the NSCN (IM)'s demand for a separate Naga Flag and Constitution.

The NSCN (IM) has repeatedly said it would not accept the 'Naga National Flag' as a cultural flag as indicated by New Delhi. It has vowed that it will not allow itself to be succumbed to 'political blackmail.'

On one hand, the Naga outfit is unlikely to sign the final deal unless the demand for a separate Flag and Constitution was met, but on the other hand the Government of India in light of abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, is unlikely to think about the Naga outfit's demand.

It is very clear to the Government of India that a final solution to the protracted Naga problem will be the way to peace. The Centre needs a systematic approach and an open mind to end the decades-old insurgency. Prolonging the final political settlement wil continue to pose a challenge for the Government. The Centre has to create the conditions.

According to Shri EN Rammohan, IPS (Retd), it is in Manipur that the NSCN (IM) has played its biggest games. The Meitei from the valley and the Naga from the hills have not been well disposed to each other ever since the Naga insurgency started in 1955.

The Meiteis uneasily watched as the Nagas got a State in 1963, while they still remained a Union Territory. Later as the NSCN (IM) gained strength the Meiteis who had ruled over Manipur and a major part of Nagaland for hundreds of years, began to feel threatened. The Manipur valley and particularly Imphal was a rich ground for extortion.

Recently, Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton, who is also the BJP legislature party leader, allegedly said some "big leaders" of the Naga Nationalist groups do not want a solution to the Naga issue but continue reaping the fruits of tax collection and extortion. Patton's statement indicated intricacies of the core issue in Naga insurgency. He gave nuances to the core issue.

The Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) in a recent statement said that the general public in Nagaland has been the ultimate victim of the unabated and multiple illegal taxations, all kinds of suppressive and anti-people activities of the selfish authorities and the armed elements alike under the signed ceasefires during the last 25 years that has virtually destroyed everything both in public and private sectors.

However, in May this year, the NSCN (IM) blamed New Delhi for increasing the burden of taxes on the people in Nagaland through several extremist factions. The Naga rebel outfit made this accusation a day after the Nagaland Government ordered all "police check gates", except those at the inter-State boundaries, to shut down to "curb illegal collection of money from the vehicles on roads".

In a statement the publicity 'ministry' of the NSCN (I-M) had said taxations "can see the end" once the Naga solution materialises. "We understand the pressing situation where people are overburdened with multiple factions and taxations... Ironically, these factions are not created by Nagas themselves," the outfit said.

The NSCN (IM) had said the Government of India created these factions to "burden the Naga public with the sinister design to pull down the Naga Nationalism". The factions referred to are at least seven constituents of the rival Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) that signed the Agreed Position with the Centre in 2017.

If there is no complete and unresolved support of the people, insurgency just cannot have the chance of success. At the same time, the uprising of the Mizo National Front (MNF) finally collasped when they themselves came to power. The uprising was a revolt against the Government of India aimed at establishing a sovereign Nation State for the Mizo people. Coming to power resulted in the MNF collapse.

The historic Mizoram Accord was signed between MNF and Government of India in 1986 ending two decades of insurgency in Mizoram. It also opened the way for the former insurgents headed by Laldenga to form the Government in Mizoram.

* Sunil Thongam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 08 2022 .

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