Oct 04, 2001

"Tale" of the Naga: Story in a Nutshell

(Based on the Interview by UNPO with Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah on October 2nd, 2001)

Situated between India, China and Myanmar, Nagalim borders on the North East of India. Before the British colonisation, Nagalim was independent of any foreign domination and consisted of permanently established village states.

In 1832 the British invaded the Naga region for the first time. In 1879 the British set up post in Kohima, and had taken over several parts of Southwest Nagalim, declaring it a British district in 1881. The colonial rule of the British kept the Nagas isolated and therefore not involved in the political movements taking place in British India. In 1929 Naga leaders stated that becoming part of British India would gravely endanger Naga interest and at the recommendation of the Simon Commission (The Indian Statutory Commission), the Government of India Act 1935 was passed. The Naga Hills District became an excluded area.

In 1947, as India became independent, the Nagas did not want to join the Indian Union. In July of that year a Naga delegation met Mahatma Gandhi, father of the Indian Nation, to assert the Nagas intention to not be part of the Indian Union. Ghandi stated at that time: "The Nagas have every right to be independent." The Naga National Council (NNC), founded in 1946, claimed an independent and sovereign state of Nagalim. It declared an independent Nagalim on the 14th of August 1947, one day before India became independent. The United Nations as well as the foreign embassies in Delhi were informed on the matter. The Indian government however did not accept this and considered the Naga Hill District to be part of independent India.

The NNC and the Indian government then signed the Nine Point Agreement, which recognised the right to self-determination of the Naga people. A few months later, the Indian government revoked the agreement, and followed the same conduct frequently in the years after. On the 26th of January 1950 the formation of the republic of India was declared. The Nagas openly refused to be part of the Indian Union, which was also informed to all foreign embassies in Delhi.

To restore Indian authority, Indian armed forces invaded Nagalim territory, imposing domination by India on the Naga people, which resulted in decade long struggles for independence since 1956.

The Naga People's Convention (NPC) was formed in 1959 by the Indian government. Composed of Naga representatives elected by the Indian Government the NPC served under the Indian government. It believed that the political future of the Naga lay within the Indian Union. In 1963 it accepted statehood within the Indian Union. The Nagalim Federal Government and the NNC however continued to fight the Indian Armed Forces until 1964 when the Naga leadership and the Indian government concluded a cease fire agreement. Six rounds of talks concerning this cease-fire would take place until 1972 when India again discontinued the talks.

In November 1975 a NNC federal delegation signed the Shillong Accord with India. The main terms of this accord were unconditional acceptance of the Indian constitution by the NNC and the federal government and surrender of arms. The "National Assembly" of the Naga held in August 1976 however, condemned the Accord as a betrayal of the Naga Movement, which led to the formation of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) on the 31st of January 1980.

The NSCN is the highest political council of three and a half million people led by Mr. Isak Chish Swu and Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah. The NSCN refuses to accept incorporation into India and continues to strive for the independence of Nagalim. Empowering the armed forces under the Armed Forces Special Power Act of 1958, again the Indian government declares the state of Nagalim a "Disturbed Area" in March 1995. The situation continued to be tense throughout 1995 and 1996.

In 1996, the Prime Minister of India and other senior government officials expressed the need to seek a political negotiated solution to the conflict. In August 1997 the government of India and the NSCN, the NSCN playing a key-role in the struggle for independence and representing Nagalim in the International Community, agreed upon a second cease-fire. Peace talks followed after this in Amsterdam, Geneva, Bangkok, Paris, New York and Zurich.

The biggest obstacle in the peace talks in the view of the NSCN was that the Government of India refused to officially extend the cease-fire to all Naga inhabited areas. Beside this, other disturbances to the peace process included the attempted murder of Nagalim Chief Minister S.C. Jamir in 1999, which remains unverified to date, and the killing of 12 NSCN activists by the 17th Paratrooper regiment that year.

To the Indian government Nagalim is part of India. In its view Nagalim wants to separate from India. To the Nagas however it has never been a question of separating from India since Nagalim has never been part of it. In their view India is a product of colonial imagination in which Nagalim was never fully integrated. According to Thuingaleng Muivah, General Secretary of the NSCN: "Naga issues are therefore not comparable to other cases in India. They are unique. In order to work out the differences between the government of India and the Nagas, the nature of the case should be acknowledged not in terms of the Indian constitution. Nagalim should have its own competencies."

Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah was arrested in January 2000 yet released in 2001 after becoming clear that the continuation of his detention and absence would endanger the Indo-Naga peace talks. The NSCN represented Nagalim during the peace talks with the Indian government in Bangkok (June/ August 2001) and Amsterdam (September 2001). After signing the Bangkok Agreement on the 14th of June 2001, the agreement was betrayed by the Indian government as it was unilaterally revoked after three weeks of signing the agreement. Discussions on the interpretation of the cease-fire continue to date as well as the negotiations on how to solve the existing problems between the Naga and the Indian government.

The Indian government has a history of contradicting itself by continuing the suppression of the Naga people even though it made numerous promises of ruling out violence and withdrawing its armed forces. With recurring incidents of arrests, abductions causing disappearances, torture, summary executions, civilians being killed and women being raped, the Nagas are still committed to the Naga cause of self-determination. As Thuingaleng Muivah stated:

"I am a Naga, I am not Indian. We are still absolutely committed to finding a solution through peaceful dialogue."