Politics

Timeline: Nagaland Waiting for Light at the End of a Long and Dark Tunnel

The much awaited peace accord with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) was finally signed on August 3, 2015. While details of the agreement have not yet been made public, The Wire brings you a timeline to Naga issue:

Nagaland, in the run up to India’s Independence

19th century: The British take control of approximately one-third of the areas of north-eastern India where the Nagas lived, create the Naga Hills district, but leave the remaining territories as ‘unadministered’.

1918: The Naga Club is set up at Kohima by a group of individuals with the aim of bringing the Nagas together into a political platform.

1929: A memorandum is submitted to the Simon Commission to exclude the Nagas from the scope of any constitutional reform and keep them under the direct administration of the British government.

1936: Naga Hills district is declared an ‘excluded area’ under the 1935 Government of India Act

1945: The Naga Hills District Tribal Council is set up as a common forum of the Nagas by the then Deputy Commissioner C R Pawsey, rechristened as the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946. Its stated objectives include: to stand for the solidarity of the Nagas including those living in ‘unadministered’ areas, complete political autonomy, unification of all Nagas living in free India as well as in Burma, and to have a separate Naga judiciary system.

1947: The first initiative towards finding a negotiated settlement to the Naga issue was arrived at between the NNC and the Governor of Assam, Akbar Hydari in June 1947. The agreement was related to the setting up of an interim politico-administrative arrangement. This did not materialise primarily because the NNC interpreted the agreement as conceding their right to complete independence after an interim period of 10 years. On August 14, 1947, NNC leader A.Z. Phizo declared Nagaland independent, but the Government of India rejected this declaration.

Post Independence

1951: The NNC claims to have conducted a ‘free and fair plebiscite’ in which 99.9% of the Nagas reportedly vote for a ‘Free Sovereign Naga Nation’. The Indian government maintains that as the legal heir of the British, it should have political authority over the Naga area too, but offers autonomy under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. The Naga leaders reject this offer.

1952: Naga leaders boycott India’s first parliamentary elections. The NNC, led by A.Z. Phizo, is banned.

1952-1958: As the Naga insurgency starts, the Indian government deploys the Army. In 1954, the NNC sets up a parallel government known as the Republican Government of Free Nagaland, substituting it with the ‘Federal Government of Nagaland’ in 1956. In 1958, the Indian government introduces the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Phizo leaves for East Pakistan and eventually moves to London.

1957: Naga ‘moderates’, who favour a negotiated settlement, set up the Naga People’s Convention and propose the formation of an administrative unit by merging Tuensang Division with Naga Hills. Thus Naga Hills-Tuensang Area is created in December 1957.

1959: The NPC adopt a proposal for the constitution of a separate state. The proposal is accepted by the government and becomes known as the Sixteen-Point agreement.

1963: The Naga Hills-Tuensang area is carved out of Assam and made into the state of Nagaland. The move is opposed by the NNC.

1964: A Peace Mission comprising of Jayaprakash Narayan, B P Chaliha and Rev Michael Scott is constituted to facilitate direct contact between the government and the Naga armed groups. It succeeds in brokering a ceasefire, which is followed by several rounds of talks.

1972: Unidentified gunmen make an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Chief Minister Hokishe Sema near Kohima. Following this incident, the government does not renew the ceasefire, and declares the ‘Federal Government of Nagaland’ and the Naga National Council as ‘illegal organisations’. Administrative responsibility for Nagaland affairs is transferred from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Ministry of Home Affairs. This event plays a major role in shaping the activity of all groups demanding autonomy for Nagaland since.

1974: Naga religious leaders set up the Nagaland Peace Council to carry forward the peace building effort. The NPC’s establishment coincides with the fall of the United Democratic Front ministry and the Naga Nationalist Organisation ministry in quick succession. This leads to the imposition of President’s rule.

1975: The Government of India and the Naga Federal Government and a section of the NNC sign the Shillong Accord under which the latter accept the Indian Constitution and agree to surrender their weapons. Apart from creating confusion among the people, the accord created a rift between the NNC leaders, all of whom were nominally under the leadership of Phizo, who was still in exile in London.

1980: The NNC finally splits, leading to the formation of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland.

1980s-1990s: Less than a decade later, the new organization also split into the NSCN-K led by S.S. Khaplang and the NSCN (IM) led by Isak Chishi Swuu and Thuingaleng Muivah. The two became bitter rivals and engaged in inter faction violence regularly, even as they fought the Indian government for nearly two decades.

1997: The NSCN (IM) signs a ceasefire agreement with the government. The NSCN (IM) pushed for the integration of Naga areas under one administrative unit and also wanted to extend the jurisdiction of the ceasefire beyond Nagaland. In 2003, the Nagaland Legislative Assembly endorsed this demand by passing a resolution.

2001: The NSCN-K also signs a ceasefire agreement.

2000-2010: The decade sees a series of factional clashes between the rival NSCNs; in which 2004 alone saw at least 17 incidents, 14 in 2005 and about 90 in 2006.

2010-2014: Even as the NSCN (I-M) has pushed for the integration of Naga-populated areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland, some in Nagaland have demanded the division of the state. In January 2011, rallies were held at various places  demanding the formation of a new state comprising the districts of Tuensang, Mon, Kiphire and Longleng.

March 2015: The NSCN-K abrogates the ceasefire and launches attacks on Indian security forces.

August 3, 2015: Framework political agreement signed between Government of India and NSCN (I-M)

Sources: National Institute For Advanced Studies,  Engaging Naga Nationalism- Economic & Political Weekly