INSURGENCY IN INDIA’S NORTH EAST
History of insurgency
- India’s North east region has been land of thousand mutinies. These mutinies have been taking place since pre-independence times.
- The insurgencies in north east are a reflection of its social, cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity, politico-economic conditions, historical evolution and changes in the environment of the area.
- This is reflected in the pattern of conflicts, which are varied in their nature and causes and the stance of insurgent groups which remain divergent and ever changing. These range from secession to autonomy, movements against foreigners and immigrants, ethnic integration and reaction to perceived imposition of Indianness.
- The common factor is resorting to violence in articulation and mobilization of the demands.
Categorization of Conflicts in the region
- National conflicts: Involving concept of a distinct ‘homeland’ as a separate nation and pursuit of the realization of that goal by use of various methods both violent as well as nonviolent. Ex: ULFA demand for sovereign Asom, NSCN for Greater Nagaland.
- Ethnic conflicts: Involving assertion of numerically smaller and less dominant tribal groups against the political and cultural hold of the dominant tribal group. In Assam this also takes the form of tension between local and migrant communities.
- Sub-regional conflicts: Involving movements which ask for recognition of sub-regional aspirations and often come in direct conflict with the State Governments or even the autonomous Councils. Ex: UPDS in Assam.
Major threats to internal security in N.E India
- Insurgency or Underground activities of different rebel groups.
- Ethnic violence and inter-tribal clashes.
- Violent clashes between local and migrants.
- Problems due to drug trafficking. (Drug trafficking is a source of money to fund terrorism)
- Illegal trade of small arms.
- No single factor can be attributed as a prime contributing factor for the complex and diverse nature of internal security threat prevailing in N.E India. These internal security challenges are due to various factors like historical, geographical, demographic, diplomatic, geopolitical, cultural, social and political.
General conditions favouring Insurgency
A) Geographical factors
- A narrow strip of land near Siliguri in the north eastern part of West Bengal known as SILIGURI CORRIDOR or chicken neck corridor ensure territorial connectivity of N.E. with mainland India.
- Thus, remoteness of N.E with the mainland India is a geographical reality with the fact that all these N.E states share long international boundaries with neighbouring countries which passes through diverse and challenging geographical terrain making the task of border management difficult and leaving behind open and porous border at some places.
- The entire N.E with the exception of Assam and Tripura lie in the form of hills, plateau and highlands with dense forests.
- Such nature of topography is creating hurdles and challenges for administrative machinery to reach in all parts and make their presence felt. But the same topography is proving to be advantageous to the rebel group in their underground activities.
- The manner in which some parts of N.E were integrated into Indian Union has left behind a section within the population with deep sense of anger and frustration.
- Which created the breeding ground for outbreak of insurgency and underground activities by rebel groups.
C) Political factors
- Certain segment within the NE population have a feeling of alienation and perceived neglect by union as they have concluded that their low democratic representation at the union level has given opportunity to union government and parliament to ignore their valid demands and concerns.
- Certain section believed that their demands couldn’t be heard democratically, so they formed rebel groups and started causing violence.
D) Ethnic Factors
- Different tribal communities belonging to different ethnic groups are residing and coexisting in a very dynamic and competitive environment. Each of these groups/community have deep commitment to protect their culture, maintain their unique identity and establish dominance over others, which is giving birth to fierce ethnic clashes.
- As the population increases competition for the limited resources increases and gives rise to anger between communities.
D) Golden Triangle
- Drug trafficking is high in N.E India due to its proximity with the Golden Triangle.
- The drug Money Funds various armed rebel groups.
E) Large scale migration
- It has created a fear in the minds of people that they will be reduced to minority in their own states or regions. Migrants threaten their culture and traditions and also occupy already limited employment opportunities. Migration of Muslims has also imparted it a communal color.
F) Lack of economic opportunities and governance deficit
- It is making it easier for people to feel alienated and left out and thus providing support for insurgency. Difficult terrain and weak infrastructure facilitating insurgents involved in conflict.
- Deep sense of alienation due to human right violation and excesses by security forces.
- Nagaland can be called the epicenter of insurgency in north-eastern India. The roots of the Naga separatism go back to the formation of Naga Club in1918 at Kohima.
- The objective of this Naga Club was to represent Naga Interests to the British Government. By that time, a clear picture of what later was known as Naga Nationalism had not appeared.
- The Nagas submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission. Via this memorandum, they requested the British Government to leave the Nagas as free people and not to include them within the Indian Union.
- One of the results of these efforts was that the Naga Areas were declared as Special Backward Area and later the Excluded Area status in the Government of India Act 1935.in 1946, the Naga Club was renamed as Naga Nationalist Council (NNC).
- In June 1947, a Nine Point agreement was signed between the British Government of India and the Naga National Council.This agreement included a coexistence (which they claim that was temporary and experimental) with India for a period of ten years,to be reviewed at the end of that period.
- However, in July 1947, the NNC let by Dr. A.Z. Phizo met Mahatma Gandhi and stated that the Nagas would declare their Independence Day on 14.8.1947.They indeed declared their independence on 14th August 1947.
- Phizo was arrested in 1948 by Government of India.Once released, he led NNC again. On May 11, 1952, the Naga delegation met the Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru; the talks remained unsuccessful. In1954, a Sovereign Republic of Nagaland was established.
- In 1956, Phizo replaced the Sovereign Republic of Nagaland with Naga Central Government and later in 1959 the Federal Government of Nagaland. They also formed the Naga Home Guards. However, there was growing difference among various Naga leaders which led to internal violence among various factions.
- By that time, the Indian Army had marched into Nagaland and suppressed the rebellion. In late 1950s, some moderates abandoned the violent path and decided that it would be better to be with India rather than a separate country.
- The Naga People’s Convention thus came into existence with Dr. Imkongliba as its President. The NPC spearheaded the movement to create Nagaland Statewithin the Indian Union with a high degree of autonomy.
- The Government of India, while taking effective measures to put down the insurgency, decided to meet the genuine aspirations of Nagas and, therefore, carved out a separate State of Nagaland on December 1, 1963. Earlier, the Constitution 13th Amendment Act, passed in 1962, had laid down via Article 371 A that
- No Act of Parliament in respect of Religious or social practices of the Nagas,
- Naga customary law and procedure,
- Administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law,
- Ownership and transfer of land and its resources shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.
- The above amendment in the constitution gave the Nagas best of two worlds viz. a complete self-determination for themselves, as much or as little administrative isolation from the rest of India as they wish, and the backing of India of which their country is essentially a geographical entity.
- However, Pakistan via its then eastern wings kept fanning the sentiments of revolt and abatement in Nagas. In the 1960s, China also got muddled with the affairs of Nagaland.
A) Shillong Accord
- An agreement was reached by the Indian Government and the NNC in the year 1975. This came to be known as the Shillong Accord. Via the Shillong Accord, rebels had to accept the Constitution of India without condition, surrender arms and renounce the demand for secession.
- But, some leaders in the NNC called as total betrayal including Isak Chishi Swu, Th Muivah and Khaplang.This led to the formation of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland or the NSCN in the late 1970s under the leadership of Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and Khaplang.
- It started an underground Naga Federal government having both Civil and Military wings. It again split into two factions in the late 1980s: the NSCN(Isak-Muivah) and the NSCN (Khaplang).
- Out of them, the NSCN (IM) is the most formidable insurgent outfit in India’s north-eastern states. It is active not only in Nagaland but also in theNaga-inhabited areas of Arunachal, Manipur and even Myanmar.
B) Ceasefire Agreement 1997
- On August 01, 1997, a cease-fire agreement was negotiated between the Government of India and the NSCN. More than fifty rounds of peace talks have since been held between the representatives of the Government of India and the rebel NSCN leaders.
- Peace talks continued for 10 years in which in periodic manner ceasefire agreement was extended but in 2006 Amsterdam talks began where NSC toned down from its core demand of independent greater Nagaland to Greater Nagaland with special federal relationship with india
- Then these talks let to DIMAPUR declaration between GOI and NSCN. Features of dimapur declaration are
- Ceasefire was extended indefinitely
- Both parties agreed to finding a permanent peaceful and consensual solution to Naga problem through meaningful dialogue and peace talks
C) Demand for Nagalim & State Response
- The Naga rebels have been insisting on their sovereignty and also demanding the creation of a ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim, which consists all the Naga-inhabited areas of neighbouring Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and some portions Myanmar, which it considersto be the rightful homeland of the Nagas.
- Establishment of Nagalim is the objective of NCSN (IM), according to which Nagalim lies in the Patkai range at the trijunction of China, India and Myanmar. The NSCN-IM maintains that at present Nagalim has been subdivided by the Government of India into four different administrative units: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland.
- Likewise, they claim that Myanmar too has parts of Nagalim and has divided it under two administrative units of Kachin State and Sagaing division. Thus, the establishment of Nagalim threatens to include large chunks of territories of three neighbouring States, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, along with some portion of Myanmar.
D) What are Various Problems in Peace Settlement?
- Fulfilling the demand of a Greater Nagaland would affect the integrity of other states. In 2010, the Government of India had made it clear that it will not change the boundaries of the current states.
- New Delhi is insisting that it would negotiate only with one entity. But the Naga Problem has too many stakeholders with wide differences among them. Each of them claims mandate to represent the Nagas.
- However, the majority of the Nagas have their own resentment towards Delhi which according to them is pampering a few gun-toting men with little resonance with broad Naga family.
- The Intervention of Delhi in Naga affairs has been quite reckless. Naga Polity is made of 25 tribes and each of these tribes is a proud owner and inheritor of distinct culture, language, tradition and geography within the broad framework of Naga family.
- However, Delhi has dealt with them as if it was a homogenous collective with common aspirations. Making a deal with one set does not mean that it satisfies all sets. For example, the New Delhi is currently engaged with the NSCN (IM), which essentially an entity of Tangkhul tribes of Manipur, having little resonance with other Nagas.
- The other powerful groups have been largely ignored. NSCN (K) reportedly holds sway over almost the entire eastern Nagaland and its people — and resonates well with the locals including the Konyaks, the largest of Naga tribes. Similarly, the NSCN (KK) — essentially a militia of the Sumis, one of the larger Naga tribes — control a large swathe of Nagaland adjoining Manipur and also has heavy presence in Dimapur district.
- The Naga National Council (NNC), the mother of all Naga militias though now a rump of its older self, deeply resonates with the Angamis, the second largest Naga tribe, and their kin tribes in Kohima and adjoining regions.
E) Current Status
- The status of the Nagaland Problem is gruesome at present. There is a ceasefire agreement in force since 1997. Naga Peace talks began between representatives of the Indian government and the NSCN-IM’s founder-leaders, Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah. Many rounds of talks have taken place but peace has not dawned upon the state
- In October 2012, NSCN-IM was reported to have agreed to surrender arms in exchange for an interim political solution within the Constitution.
- It was reported that NSCN (IM) agreed to drop its demands for Nagalim and now wants integrating Naga-inhabited areas in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh and redrawing boundaries.
- They also want that Nagaland would get a separate State flag and the Assembly will be renamed “Tatar Hoho” and apan-Naga social body will be formed. Article 371A will have to be amended, under which no Act of Parliament applies to Nagaland and it has special status.
- Meeting the political aspirations of groups by giving them autonomy. Implementing sixth schedule provisions in these areas will help them to preserve their identity and culture while giving them greater autonomy. Economic development of the area in a calibrated manner. Any development should be sustainable and should have the participation and acceptance by the locals.
- Improving Governance and delivery mechanisms of the government and administration.
- The pre-condition of complete abjuring of violence for holding peace talks is a flawed notion. If violence is discarded and peace is established then the need of peace talks become futile. Dialogue should be ongoing process to reach concrete solutions by involving all the stakeholders and not a single group.
- Coordinating operations with the neighboring countries and use of force only when needed. Draconian laws like AFSPA should be repealed as it is one of the causes for inflating insurgency in north east.
- Rebel groups must also be more pragmatic by seeking greater autonomy within the constitutional mandate rather than demanding newer states and regions based on ever narrowing ethnic and linguistic identities, which are beyond acceptance.
- Centre and states should coordinate in decision making. In the recent agreement of the Centre with NSCN (IM), it did not take concerned state governments and other groups onboard. It should be avoided.
- State police and central forces should cooperate on intelligence sharing, investigation and operations against militants. It has been alleged by the army that the June ambush of the army became possible because state police did not share the intelligence about the attack with it. It is unfortunate and counter-productive.