By Debarati Ghosh:
The historic treaty signed by Thiungaleng Muivah of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) and the Indian Government on the 3rd of August, 2015, is due to set off multi-layered ripples across the political arena of the subcontinent. Spanning over sixty years and claiming over three thousand lives, the long drawn threat of the North East insurgency will hopefully conclude with this initiative. It is being considered as the biggest step towards following through with the peace initiatives started by the NSCM (I-M) leaders, almost twenty years back.
The most troubled region in India
“The territory that is Nagaland is an ‘integral part’ of India, but the Naga people can be Indians only under stringent conditions – not on their terms, but on ours. Nagaland is ours, but not the Naga people, not if they insist on being Naga.” – Nivedita Menon
No other region in India can be a better example of the ethnic clashes caused by the idea of nation-bound territorial divisions. Regarded as the longest insurgency in the subcontinent, the Naga agitation began soon after India’s independence in 1947, claiming that the region was never a part of the country. The troubled history of the region is traced back to the Naga Club formed in 1918. It is only in 1963 that Nagaland formally became a recognized state in India with special rights and recognitions. However, the continued disputes led to the formation of the rebellious NSCN on 31st January, 1980. Several ceasefire agreements, and violations later, the recent treaty is considered to be the long awaited answer to restoring peace in the region.
The problems in the promising agreement
The mutual appreciation of Modi and Mulvah throws hope on the initiative. According to Prime Minister Modi, this marks not only the end of the insurgent problem but also the beginning of a new future. In a tweet overloaded with optimism, he ascertains it as an “important and landmark event”. However, his enthusiasm is not unanimously shared. While this agreement marks a major step towards attaining peace in the North East, a glaring issue such as arriving at a consensus and dealing with the militant section, led by SS Khaplang of NSCN-K, responsible for the June Manipur attack and the violation of the ceasefire treaty, are still unresolved.
Undoubtedly a significant political maneuver, that this treaty will resolve the territorial tension between the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, is still under wraps. It is contended that sectarian factions will keep their demands for a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim, alive. Ever since the peace talks concerning Nagaland had begun, the Kuki groups’ demand for a separate homeland within Manipur intensified, claiming rights to their ancestral roots in the areas now claimed under the NSCM (I-M) proposition for territorial control. In this context, we must not lose sight of the causes that led to the failure of the past attempts at dispute resolution, such as the Shillong accord, which could not enforce a lasting peace in the valley primarily due to the lack of unanimous support from the divergent political leaders. The policy to handle the Naga militant forces is contingent on the Indian government’s resolution of the threats from groups like the United Liberation Front of West South East Asia.
Amidst the volatile political situation in the North East, the only reassurance is the willingness of the Naga Leaders and armed groups like Kuki National Front or United Liberation Front of Assam to engage in agreements to restore peace, by entering into dialogues with the government. However, no matter how many hopes are pinned on the Modi government, the threat in reality, will not be lifted as long as the core disagreements over the land disputes are not resolved.