Relevance: Recently violence has erupted in Nagaland after Indian Armed Forces have ‘mistakenly' killed the civilians. The killing of civilians in Mon district has cast a shadow on the already struggling peace talks between the Centre and NSCN (I-M). This has also led to further protests related to removal of the Armed Force Special Protection Act (AFSPA).
Background and History:
Maoist guerrilla leaders Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S S Khaplang had created the NSCN in 1980 to oppose the decision of the Naga National Council (NNC) to accept the Indian Constitution-the 1975 Shillong Accord was signed by Angami Zapu Phizo-led NNC.
On August 14, 1947, the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo declared independence for Nagaland. Phizo formed an underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA) in 1952, in response to which the Centre sent in the Army and enacted the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, or AFSPA.
After differences between the top leaders, the group split into the NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K.
In 1997, the NSCN-IM agreed to a ceasefire which led to the start of almost two decades of peace talks with the Indian government.
It refers to ongoing talks between the Indian government and Naga insurgent groups, in particular the NSCN(IM), since 1997 with the aim to sign a Naga Peace Accord.
The 2015 agreement was signed between the Centre and the Naga groups led by National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) after the latter agreed to give up its long-standing demand for sovereignty.
There was a broad understanding of a settlement within the Indian constitutional framework, with due regard to the uniqueness of Naga history and tradition.
The process, however, halted when the group insisted on a separate flag as well as the inclusion of all Naga-inhabited areas in one administrative apparatus.
The NSCN-IM’s “Greater Nagalim” consists of present Nagaland and all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas, which includes many districts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, and most interestingly, a part of neighbouring Myanmar.
Major Issues and Concerns
Most of the states except Plains of Assam were deliberately excluded from mainstream government administration of Britishers and categorised as excluded areas in Government of India Act 1935 and the ethnic people were called backward tribes. This has led to the exclusion of the ethinic people from the rest of India.
Recent killings of civilians have invoked the demand of removal of AFSPA which gives armed forces special powers to control “disturbed areas”, which are designated by the government.
Under its provisions, the armed forces have been empowered to open fire, enter and search without warrant, and arrest any person who has committed a cognisable offence, all while having immunity from being prosecuted.
Currently, AFSPA is in effect in Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
Naga people consider the act as “decorian’’ and have been asking for its removal for a long time.
Further, these killings could be exploited by certain insurgent groups to recruit and even strengthen the hands of the NSCN(I-M), which will likely push for its demands and adding fuel to the insurgency in the North east areas.
The current demands of the NSCN (IM) have toned down from complete sovereignty to a greater autonomous region within the Indian constitutional framework.
They have been asking for a separate Naga flag also.
The unrest in the region is a great challenge to the internal security of border areas as it continues to get young recruits and wields considerable influence in the region.
After the removal of the interlocutor N. Ravi by the centre, the state has been waiting for the new appointment.
According to the GoI, AFSPA is a “a very simple measure” to control the “misguided Nagas indulging in mischievous activities”.
Further, over such a vast area to depute civil magistrates to accompany the armed forces is not possible.
There is no way the government would accept a separate constitution for Nagaland as it is against the sovereignty of India.
The idea of providing a separate flag was also weakened after Kashmir region’s flag was taken away in 2019.
GoI considers Nagaland as an inseparable part of the country and is taking security measures to strengthen the border areas by curbing the insurgent groups.
GoI considers that accepting the demand of a particular group will give rise to the separatist tendency in the entire northeast which would be against India's overall security and sovereignty.
The Naga insurgency, rooted in Naga nationalism, is one of the oldest insurgencies in the country. Lasting peace in the Northeast is not possible without resolving the Naga insurgency.
It is important to understand that there cannot be an accord without the NSCN(IM). The idea is to slowly bring them to accept what India can give without compromising the country's sovereignty and security.
For the same there is a need to have collaborative talks between the centre and state and the separatist group as well. GoI must consider the suggestions given by the Jeevan Reddy Committee formed in 2004 which had recommended a complete repeal of the AFSPA.
Setting up Bicameral Assembly with at least 40 nominated members representing different tribes; absorption of cadres as local armed forces or in the Indian paramilitary; setting up of autonomous councils in Naga-dominated areas of neighbouring states; and the use of the Naga flag for at least customary events can provide amicable solutions to the current crisis.