While the situation in Jammu and Kashmir continues to make headlines, the mainstream media in India has maintained a safe distance from insurgency in the Northeast.
As the Naga Peace Talks deadline ends on 31 October, the inability of the Government of India and other key players involved, including the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), to reach conclusive ground has landed the 22-year-old negotiation process in a deadlock.
While the NSCN(IM) has maintained that it will not sign the final deal unless the demand for a separate flag and constitution was met, the Centre in light of abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, is unlikely to entertain any such concession.
Further, speculation is rife that the NSCN (IM) will not be part of the peace accord and talks will now be held between the Government of India and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) – an umbrella organisation of 7 rebel groups.
It only seems unclear if the Narendra Modi government will extend the deadline to avoid any disturbance in the law and order situation in the region or will go ahead with the accord with or without the NSCN (IM) on board.
So, what’s the story behind one of India’s oldest insurgencies and what triggered the current situation? Let’s find out.
The Naga issue finds its roots in the Colonial era when the Naga Hills became a part of British India. The year 1946 saw the creation of the Naga National Council (NNC) and after India’s independence in 1947, Nagaland was declared an independent state under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo by the NNC.
A nine-point agreement was signed between the Governor of Assam and the NNC granting legislative and executive powers to the people of Nagaland.
One of the clauses in the agreement states that the Governor of Assam as the agent of the Government of India will have a special responsibility for a period of ten years to ensure that due observance of this agreement is extended for a further period, or a new agreement regarding the future of the Naga people is arrived at.
The Nagas contested that the clause meant independence from India after the stated period of time while the Government of India has contested that the clause called for a new agreement after 10 years.
NNC under Phizo rejected the nine-point agreement on grounds that it failed to address the issue of Naga Sovereignty. A referendum was conducted in May 1951 to claim that 99.9% of the Nagas supported a sovereign Nagaland.
A 16-point Agreement followed in July 1960 leading to the creation of Nagaland on 1 December 1963.
Although, the Naga struggle remained largely peaceful in the 40s and the 50s, the insurgency took a violent turn in 1956 when an armed ethnic conflict led by the Naga National Council (NNC) was launched with the aim of forming an independent Nagaland.