Nandita Haksar | 5 AUGUST, 2015

The Future of the Centre-Naga Accord

After signing the accord


The Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim have signed an Accord on August 3, 2015. The contents of the Accord have not been made public but the Prime Minister of India has said:

“Today’s agreement is a shining example of what we can achieve when we deal with each other in a spirit of equality and respect, trust and confidence; when we seek to understand concerns and try to address aspirations; when we leave the path of dispute and take the high road of dialogue. It is a lesson and an inspiration in our troubled world.

“Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future. We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems, but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige.

“Today, to the leaders and the people of Nagaland, I say this: You will not only build a bright future for Nagaland, but your talents, traditions and efforts will also contribute to making the nation stronger, more secure, more inclusive and more prosperous. You are also the guardians of our eastern frontiers and our gateway to the world beyond.”

Many people have been deeply impressed by the graciousness of the Indian Prime Minister and the sensitivity with which the entire ceremony was conducted.

In part the reason is the respect that the Naga leaders command from the successive governments of India; the enormous patience and commitment which the NSCN leaders have shown for two decades. They have not only held the ceasefire they have not retaliated even when the intelligence agencies have played so many games. It was Isak Swu and Muivah’s statesmanship that carried forward the peace process.

The two leaders spent 27 years in the forests of Myanmar fighting the Indian State and had helped train innumerable groups in the North East before they sat down to negotiate with the Indian Government. The Indian and Naga leaders met in various cities in the world often with the knowledge and permission of the Western states.

Throughout the history of Naga insurgency the Naga army has been known to be disciplined and seldom attacked civilian targets. But the leaders always knew that the final settlement could only be through political negotiations. In 1964 a peace process was initiated by the church leaders with a team consisting of Jayprakash Narain, Assam Chief Minister Chaliha and the Reverand Michael Scott. However, the peace process broke down in 1967.

The Nagas led by Muivah and Isak Swu marched through the thick Burmese forests all the way to China and got arms training and sophisticated weapons. This was a period of intense fighting and retaliation by the Indian armed forces resulting in large scale human rights violations. The conflict ended briefly with the signing of the Shillong Accord in 1975.

However, Isak Swu and Muivah condemned the Accord and declared the signatories as traitors to the Naga cause. The bitter conflict ensued between those whom supported the Accord and those who condemned it. Finally, it led to Isak Swu, T Muiva and Khaplang forming the National Socialist Council of Nagaland later changed to Nagalim.

From the start of the Naga national movement the Nagas have demanded the unification of all Naga inhabited areas which consisted of the present state of Nagaland, four districts of Manipur, parts of Arunachal and Assam. Isak Swu is from Nagaland, T Muivah is from Ukhrul district of Manipur and Khapland is from Myanmar.

The issue of integrating the Naga inhabited areas has been opposed by the state governments arguing that the integrity of the States cannot be violated. The intelligence agencies have played their part in sowing seeds of tribalism and had a hand in the Naga national movement splitting into several groups. Now the question is whether the other factions will support the Accord.

Therefore the first question that comes up in the mind of the Nagas is whether the Accord addresses the question of integration. Is there any other way of dealing with the issue such as the creation of a legal or constitutional body which will have representatives from all Naga inhabited areas?

The modalities of the Accord and the mechanism for its implementation will have to be worked out; it will mean more rounds of negotiations and time. The Naga people still remember the failure of the first peace process.

But this time the NSCN has shown both foresight and maturity by enlisting the help of international lawyers including Yash Ghai who was involved in drafting the new Constitution for Kenya, , Michael von valt Praag, professor of international law at the Golden Gate University in San Francisco who has been involved in negotiations between China and the Tibetans and Anthony Reagan, professor of law at the Australian National University.

But lawyers cannot substitute for a political vision of the leaders, both Indian and Naga. While Thuingaleng Muivah has been trained by the People’s Liberation Army of China during the time of Chairman Mao the other cadres have no exposure to socialist ideology principles. They are more influenced by the rather fundamentalist ideology of the American Baptist Church. The majority of the Nagas are Baptists and there have been many instances of attacks on the Catholics.

Much of Naga cultural heritage has been destroyed by the coming of Christianity during the British rule. Their artifacts have been stolen and exhibited in museums all over Europe. Their dances, music, songs and oral traditions are fast disappearing as the youth consume western culture and are alienated from their tradition. Indian education system has done little to nurture pride in Naga history, languages or values.

It is also true that the Naga nationalists have themselves not given much thought to the preservation and development of Naga culture. By ignoring this aspect of their society the NSCN has failed to understand the importance of Naga culture as a resource for their future development. The rich biodiversity and mineral resources have also been depleted and Nagas have been left impoverished. It is indeed ironic that a prime minister whose ideological commitments are towards the promotion of a culturally homogeneous India is talking of inclusive democracy and hailing the unique culture of the Nagas.

When the Prime Minister talks about his vision for the transformation of the Northeast region and his confidence that the agreement will open a glorious new chapter for the Naga people to build a bright future for Nagaland one cannot help but wonder what the future holds for the Nagas. Would the Accord help revive and restore the rich cultural and biodiversity or will it means the easy entry of corporations and the destruction of the natural resources? After all the controversies over the Land Bill these are questions which will trouble all those who are concerned about the kind of development being promoted by the present Government.

It is ironic that the Accord should have taken place when the Governor of Nagaland is A B Acharya and the political party in power is an ally of the NDA. After all it was the Congress Party who initiated the Naga peace process when Narasimha Rao met Muivah on July 25, 1995. It was the then Prime Minister, I K Gujral, who informed the Parliament that about the cease-fire agreement – which commenced on August 1, 1997. Rajesh Pilot won the respect of the NSCN who sent a special message of condolence when he died.

Then why did the secular forces fail to achieve a lasting solution to the Indo-Naga conflict even though they initiated the dialogue and sustained it for so many years.

The future success or failure of the Indo-Naga Accord lies in the hands of the Naga people and their vision of their future society. It also depends on Indian citizens and their capacity to understand the complexities of the problems in the Northeast.

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