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Nagaland Backgrounder

The Nagas comprise some 17 major tribes and over 20 sub-tribes. Some of the major tribes include Ao, Angami, Sema, Lotha, Tangkhul, Konyak, Rengma, and Mao. Each tribe and sub-tribe speaks a different language, though each of these belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese group of languages.

Among all the ethnic groups and tribes living in the Northeast, the Nagas were the first to raise the banner of revolt against the Indian government, on August 14, 1947, under the aegis of the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo. In July 1948, Phizo was arrested along with some of his associates. They were released in 1949 and Phizo became the President of NNC in 1950. The NNC publicly resolved to establish a sovereign Naga state. In May 1951, the Council held a ‘referendum’ in which it claimed that 99% of the Naga people supported independence for Nagaland, though this has never been accepted by the government. The NNC boycotted the general elections in 1952 and launched a violent secessionist movement, with Naga insurgents raiding several villages and police outposts. On March 22, 1956, Phizo created an underground government called the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA). In April that year, the Central government inducted the army to crush the insurgency in what was, till then, the Naga Hills District of the State of Assam. To deal with the situation, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, was subsequently enacted. Phizo, however, escaped to the then East Pakistan in December 1956 and, subsequently, to London in June 1960.

After Nagaland attained Statehood on December 1, 1963, a serious attempt was made to bring about a political settlement. In April 1964, a Peace Mission was formed with Jai Prakash Narayan, B.P. Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott as its members and an Agreement for Suspension of Operation (AGSOP) was signed with the insurgents on September 6. However, the insurgents continued to violate the agreement by indulging in various acts of violence. Six rounds of talks between the insurgents and the Centre resulted in a deadlock and the Peace Mission was dissolved in 1967. In 1972, the Centre banned the NNC, the NFG and the NFA as "unlawful associations" under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967. The security forces launched a massive counter-insurgency operation and once again brought the situation under control forcing the insurgents to the negotiating table. An agreement known as the Shillong Accord was signed between the Centre and a section of the NNC and the NFG on November 11, 1975. According to the terms of the Accord, the NNC-NFG accepted the Indian Constitution and agreed to come overground and surrender their weapons.

However, a group of about 140 activists of the NNC, who had gone to China for training, repudiated the Shillong Accord and refused to surrender. They formed a new underground organisation called the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) under the leadership of Thuengaling Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu and S.S. Khaplang on Myanmarese (Burmese) soil in 1980. With the passage of time, the NSCN emerged as the most radical and powerful insurgent group fighting for the Naga cause, as the NNC-NFG became less active.

The Nagas had always been divided along clan and tribal lines. The majority of the rank and file of the NSCN was from the Konyak tribe, while the command structure was dominated by the Tangkhuls. This created discontent among the Konyaks. There were also apprehensions among the Konyaks and the Myanmerese Nagas that the Tangkhuls were about to strike a deal with the Central government. These factors resulted in a vertical split in the NSCN in 1988. The Konyaks formed a breakaway faction under the leadership of Khole Konyak and S.S. Khaplang, a Hemie Naga from Myanmar. The Tangkhul faction was led by Isak Swu, a Sema from Nagaland, and Muivah, a Tangkhul from Manipur’s Ukhrul district. This was followed by severe inter-factional clashes in which hundreds of activists of the rival groups had been killed.

After the death of Phizo in 1990, there was another split in the NNC. Phizo’s daughter Adino, an Angami, and Khudhao Nanthan, a Sema and a close associate of Phizo, constituted separate groups on rival lines. In the winter of 1996-97, Khudhao joined NSCN (lM) and is currently the Vice Chairman of the organization. With this move NSCN (IM) was also able to get the support of the Lothas to which Kudao belongs .All factions of the NSCN and NNC (Adino) have been banned since 1991 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The NSCN-IM lays primary emphasis on the point that the Naga region was never a part of India and that Nehru’s argument was fallacious when he said that India had "inherited" the Naga area from the British. Both Swu and Muivah argue that "the fate of a people cannot be passed on like an inheritance from one party to another". The NSCN-IM has taken an inflexible stand on this point and insists that their demand is not for ‘secession’ because they have never been a part of the Indian Union.







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