Sunday, August 9, 2020

Will New Delhi Announce Final Naga Peace Accord on this Independence Day?

PM Narendra Modi and T.Muivah

The million-dollar question in the air is, will this year mark the end of the longest-running insurgency campaign in independent India? Talks are on in an undisclosed location in New Delhi, between senior officials of Central Government and NSCN-IM leaders led by general secretary Thuengaleng Muivah, to reach such an agreement. 'M' in the group's name represents T.Muivah - the veteran of Naga Insurgency who is now in his late 80s. Representatives of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, who also have lot of stakes in the settlement, are present in the capital. Prime Minister’s representative for talks, R.N.Ravi (who is also the governor of Nagaland) will soon arrive in the capital.

However, lately, all is not well between the governor and Naga insurgency groups. Recently Governor invoked his powers under article 371A of the constitution; and said his approval is necessary for transferring and posting of officials above district level. Reason cited was the parallel taxation of state residents by NSCN-IM and other insurgency groups. Though NSCN-IM issued statements, groups seem to separate governor from central government and sounds interested in working with New Delhi. Since the parallel taxation by insurgency groups are nothing new, it is possible that Nagas are not willing to relent on something which is not possible for New Delhi to agree.

The main roadblocks are - flag, constitution, and territory. I do not think New Delhi will agree on separate constitution for Nagaland. All are too aware of the mess created by Article 370. As far as territory is concerned, it is difficult to negotiate. Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Assam will not be willing to give their territory to Nagaland so that NSCN-IM can claim a greater Nagalim. Even if governments of neighboring states agreed, it is tough for the political dispensation to sell that idea to their people. Remaining one is the flag, maybe New Delhi will allow Nagaland to have a state flag.

Along with NSCN-IM; Naga National Political Groups (NNPG) - a joint forum of seven other Naga organizations - is also supposed to sign the same agreement. As per reports, NNPG successfully concluded their negotiations with New Delhi.

History of Naga Insurgency


Demand for a sovereign territory for Naga people probably dates to the pre-independence era. The original demand was for an independent greater Nagalim by integrating Naga inhabited territories of India and Myanmar.

As a forum for Naga Groups, then Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills District, C.R.Pawsey, established 'Naga Hills District Tribal Council' in 1945. Next year, this council was reorganized as a political organization and named as 'Naga National Council (NNC)'. A lot of talks happened and NNC reached a nine-point agreement (aka 'Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord') with then governor of Assam - Sir Muhammad Saleh Akbar Hydari on 26-28 June 1947. In those days Nagaland was not a separate state, but a part of Assam. Ten tribal groups signed this agreement.

Under the accord, Nagas will have the rights on,

1. Judicial - all cases civil and criminal between Nagas in Naga hills will be disposed of by Naga courts under Naga law or such laws introduced with the consent of Nagas. People can appeal to the governor if the verdict is a death penalty or exile. If the case is between Nagas and Non-Nagas, and the judge is not a Naga, then the judge will be assisted by a Naga assessor.

2. Executive - What Naga council is prepared to pay for, should be controlled by Naga Council. This includes Agricultural, Public Works, Education and Forest departments.

3. Legislative - Laws passed by the Assam or Central Legislature would not affect the agreement or the religious practices of Nagas; unless Naga Council agrees to that. In case of disputes, it will be referred to the governor.

4. Land - Non-Naga cannot have land or resources in Naga Hill unless Naga Council agree to the same.

5. Taxation - Naga Council will be responsible for taxation and its expenditure.

6. Boundaries - As far as possible, bring all Nagas under one unified administrative unit.

7. Arms Act - Deputy commissioner will act on advice of Naga Council.

8. Regulations - Chin Hills regulations and Nengal Eastern Frontier Regulations will remain in force.

9. Period of agreement - 10 years. After that, it can be extended, or a new agreement can be negotiated.

Indian Constituent Assembly refused to ratify the accord. While Nagas were thinking of a sovereign state, the Constituent Assembly was thinking more of a district autonomy within Indian constitution.

In June 1947, Nehru rejected Naga's demand for separate electorates. During this time Angami Zapu Phizo (A.Z Phizo) was on the rise in NNC. NNC met with other tribal groups and tried to convince them to form independent countries instead of joining with the Indian Union. This did not gain any momentum. On August 14, 1947 - one day before Indian independence - Nagas declared their independence.  


Phizo was arrested on the charges of creating trouble in India-Burma border, and sent to Presidency Jail in Culcutta. After his release, he became the president of NNC. In 1949, he became the chairman of NNC by a margin of one vote. After this, NNC was more oriented towards independence. Phizo asked for a plebiscite on the question of Naga independence. This was rejected by New Delhi. NNC went ahead and conducted one on their own and declared that 99.9% of people voted in favor of them. Results were immediately rejected by Assam and New Delhi. I often wonder why groups claim to have 99.9 or 99% voted in their favor when claiming 80-90% looks more realistic and believable. NNC was on an inevitable collision path with the Government of India (GoI).

GoI started where British left. Naga Hills District placed under Part A tribal Area and was administered as an autonomous district by Government of Assam. Naga Tribal Area (Tuensang) became Part B tribal area and administrated by Governor of Assam.

In 1952 India conducted her first elections. This was rejected by Naga separatists. Next year, 1953, Nehru met Burmese Prime Minister 'U Nu' to conclude discussions on India-Burma borders. This did not go well with separatists. They thought it as a plan to divide Naga regions. Since Nagas live in both countries they were looking for integrating all Naga areas ruled by both countries.

In the early 1950's NNC decided to boycott GoI and posted notices which threaten government employees (mainly Nagas). Government launched police action and passed 'Assam Maintenance of Public Order (autonomous Districts)' act in 1953. Assam State Armed Police and Assam Rifles moved in; but they were not able to quell the insurgency. The ground situation worsened and the government enacted the 'Assam Disturbed Areas Act' in 1955. This provided the required legal framework for paramilitary forces and armed state police to operate in the region.

In 1954, Phizo formed 'People's Sovereign Republic of Free Nagaland'. During this time, there were troubles in the leadership. Angami leaders T.Sakhrie (secretary of NNC) and J.B.Jasokie broke off with Phizo. Sakhrie was murdered later (1956). Other dissenters took refuge under GoI. NNC established Naga Federal Government (NFG) and Naga Federal Army (NFA) in 1956. Same year Phizo fled to East Pakistan. From 1957 to 1971 East Pakistan provided them weapons and ammunition. In 1960 Phizo fled to London and he stayed there until his death.

When situation worsened further, The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance 1958 was signed by President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad on May 22, 1958. Later the ordinance was replaced by 'Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act 1958' on September 11, 1958. Disturbed Areas Act and AFPSA are still in use in states hit by insurgency. This act provides extraordinary powers to the Armed Forces. There is a lot of demand to repeal this law from people living in those areas.

Naga People’s Convention (NPC) was convened in Kohima in 1957; in Mokokchung in 1958 and again in 1959. Nehru and head of NPC Imkongliba Ao agreed for a separate state for Nagas under Indian Union in 1962. Imkongliba Ao became the head of the interim assembly in 1961. Though weakened this did not stop the insurgency. Army and militants clashed in Manipur in March 1961 which resulted in the death of 16 militants. Five months later, Imkongliba Ao was shot and he died two days later.

After the formation of Nagaland

GoI created Nagaland on Dec 1, 1963. Elections were conducted next year and Nagas signed a ceasefire agreement with the government. As per some estimations by that time around 4000 people died in the conflict. Another problem was, there were so factions that had different opinions and claimed to speak on behalf of Nagas.

In 1964 Nagaland legislative assembly passed a resolution urging GoI to integrate Naga areas in neighboring states to Nagaland. Naga militants went on fighting the government and bombed public places - a train, railway station in Lumding, Diphu etc. Numerous people died in these bombings. Some reports claim that China also gave military training to Nagas in Yunnan province starting from January 1967. As per some reports, another 4000 people got killed in between 1964 and 1972.

In 1966 the government of Indira Gandhi conducted six round of talks with Nagas in New Delhi.

An assassination attempt and further conflicts

Militias tried to assassinate Nagaland Chief Minister (CM) Hokishe Sema near Kohima. He escaped, but three other people died. GoI, ended ceasefire unilaterally in 1972. In 1975 assembly was dissolved, and the state came under the presidential rule. Same year NNC faction led by A.Z.Phizo's brother K.Y.Phizo signed Shillong accord with GoI. This gave Naga regions limited autonomy within the union. A.Z Phizo rejected Shillong accord in London.

Later Indian prime minister Morarji Desai met A.Z. Phizo in London in 1977. This didn’t result in any accord. President's rule was withdrawn, and elections were held in 1977.

In 1980 NNC split and Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu and SS Khaplang established the ‘National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)’ on January 31, 1980. This group continued with their insurgency. In 1990 A.Z.Phizo died in London.

NSCN split in to two in 1988 – NSCN-IM and NSCN-K.

NSCN continued their violent attacks and government hit back. In 1993 fight broke out between ethnic kukis of Manipur and NSCN. 86 people died in tribal clashes in 1993. In 1993, NSCN massacred around 100 Kukis in Zapati district of Manipur. They killed 16 more kukis - mostly women and children in Manipur, in 1994. Later leaders of Nagas and Kukis signed a peace accord in 1994 in Kohima. This did not stop NSCN from killing Kukis in Manipur.

In 1996, then Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao offered to hold unconditional talks with Naga groups. In 1997 H.D. Deve Gowda met NCSN leaders at Geneva. Later I.K. Gujral also offered to negotiate with Naga groups in 1997. NSCN-IM faction agreed to a ceasefire which came in to effect in 1997. Nagaland CM, S.C. Jamir met NSCN-K and NNC faction at Atlanta (USA) and conducted discussions. Fortunately, S.C. Jamir survived another assassination attempt in Kohima that year.

1998 saw more talks between GoI and NSCN-IM in Bangkok and they agreed to extend the ceasefire by one year. Later that year, then Indian prime minister Vajpayee met Muivah and Isak in Paris and continued their talks later in Amsterdam. In 2001 negotiations were continued in Osaka. The government let Muivah and Isak come back to Nagaland after long periods of exile. In 2000 NSCN-K announced a 6-month ceasefire. This ceasefire extended when it reaches the expiration date. As per some reports, another 17,000 people died during 1972 to 2001. 

It is interesting to see the locations of these discussions – Paris, Amsterdam, London, Atlanta, Osaka, Bangkok. You might be wonder how the insurgents are financed and who finance them. We will look into that at the end of this article.

Negotiations were shifted to Kohima. A breakthrough came when GoI announced in 2002 that it will not renew the ban on NCSN. In a setback to NSCN-K Burmese troops attacked their HQ in western Burma in 2003.

Manmohan Singh continued negotiations with NSCN leaders in New Delhi. The ceasefire was more observed in its breaking than on its holding. In addition to fighting with government, Naga militants were also fighting against each other.

Burmese Army conducted a couple more operations against NSCN-K. Three-time lucky, Jamir survived another assassination attempt in 2007. Manmohan Singh government-imposed president's rule on Nagaland in 2008. Within three months elections were conducted.

Later in 2010 leaders of several Naga groups signed agreements with GoI in Kohima, in 2010. Ture to its nature, NSCN split gain on 2011 and NSCN-KK was formed.

NSCN-K repealed the ceasefire agreement. However, this led to another split in the ranks and NSCN-R was formed. R stands for reformation - people who wanted to continue with the ceasefire.

In 2015, NSCN-IM leaders Isak and Muivah signed a framework agreement with GoI. While the other major NSCN faction, NSCN-K joined with another militia organization and broke off peace talks with GoI.  Isak Chishi Swu died in 2016. Even T.Muivan very old, in his late 80s.


There are two main factions in NSCN. NSCN-IM and NSCN-K.

This group runs a government-in-exile - Government of the People's Republic of Nagaland (GPRN).

NSCN-IM primarily consists of Tangkhul Nagas. They have influence over Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong districts of Manipur; Wokha, Phek, Zunebhoto, Kohima and some parts of Mokokchung and Tuensang districts of Nagaland; Naga areas of North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam; and some areas of Arunanchal Pradesh.

T.Muivah, the General Secretary, and Isak Chisi Swu, The Chairman of NSCN-IM were earlier based in Thailand.

This outfit's military wing is called the Naga Army. As per some reports, it has one brigade and six battalions. Town commands and specialized mobile groups are also available to boost muscle power.

Politically NSCN-IM has 11 regions that are delimited based on tribal considerations. They try to run a parallel government wherever possible. The administration is divided into defence, home, finance, foreign, education, information and publicity, forests and minerals, law and justice, and religious affairs.

GPRN is responsible for interacting with world bodies, media, garner support, and raise funds for operations. NSCN-IM's annual budget runs into crores.

Allegedly major source of income for this group is drug trafficking from Myanmar, along with extortion, bank robberies, and other criminal activities. In addition, the outfit generates funds internationally.

Both NSCN-IM and NSCN-K run parallel structures of taxation throughout the regions under their control.

They also receive assistance from neighboring countries - supply of arms and ammunition, logistics, safe havens, camping, and training facilities. It is believed that till 1971 US also supplied them arms, finance and intelligence. Some articles state that, till the late 1980s, China also provided support. Pakistan’s ISI is reported to be the major backer now.

After NSCN-K was waked out of the ceasefire agreement with GoI, they were reported to be behind the attack on an army convoy in Manipur which killed 18 soldiers of 6th Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army. After this incident Tatmadaw (Myanmarese army) took control of NSCN-K headquarters in Sagaing region of Myanmar. Group head S.S.Khaplang also died in 2017. This considerably weakened the organization.


Every time India government concludes an agreement with Naga outfits another one pops up and keeps the insurgency humming. Almost all prime ministers of India negotiated with the groups and many reached significant breakthroughs. But then some other group comes up. Hope that time such a thing will not happen.

Continuing negotiations shows, the importance of a political process to resolve things. An army can win the day on the ground, but it must be backed by a strong pollical process. Without this political framework, the military gain will whither away. At the same, we also need to open up the state and show that we meant it.



1. Naga-Akbar Hydari Accord (Nine Point Agreement)

2. India/Nagas (1947-present)

3. Naga National Council - Wikipedia

4. Angami Zapu Phizo

5. Nagaland - Wikipedia

6. Myanmar Army Takes Control of NSCN-Khaplang Headquarters –The Wire

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