On August, 3, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, signed a historic peace agreement with the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland. The agreement has taken place between the NSCN-IM and the Government of India, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. This agreement has been made almost after 60 years after the NNC or the National Naga Council declared its independence on August 14, 1947. The terms and conditions of the peace agreement have to be made public. The Government officials have promised to make public the terms of agreement only once it has been presented in the Parliament.
The NSCN-IM or the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland, was formed in the year 1980 succeeding its ancestor the NNC or the Naga National Council, which was initially formed in the late 1940’s in order to achieve a sovereign Naga state. Their utmost aim was to cease Naga-land from the authority of the Government of India and declare it as a separate sovereign state. The NNC ceased to exist soon after it signed the Shillong Accord with the then Government of India, headed by Smt. Indira Gandhi, whereas the pact was signed under the leadership and steps of the then Governor of Nagaland, Lallan Prasad Singh. The Shillong Accord initially led to surrendering of arms and rebel instincts in the north Eastern Regions (which were then under the influence of the NNC), but later, the Shillong Accord proved be a failure as this led the participants and rebels in the NNC to lose faith in the NNC and this subsequently led to the formation of the NSCN-IM.
The NSCN-IM too aimed at liberating the area and declaring it as a sovereign state. The NSCN-IM has been an important and crucial aspect of the political agenda pertaining to North-Eastern India, both Nationally and Internationally because NSCN-IM has been doubted of receiving aid from foreign hands like Pakistan and China (mainly to supply them arms and training). The NSCN-IM not only revolves around the internal politics of India but also concerns the South-Asian countries neighboring India. The NSCN-IM has also developed contacts with the UN Human Rights Organization, Geneva, the UN unrepresented people’s Organization (UNPO) and the UN working group on indigenous people.
The cry for a sovereign state by the Nagas or any other tribal or local community in a particular state has been balanced through the means of granting them a ‘special status.’ In fact, this is the strategic idea that the modern day government has been adopting to put a cap on such absolute demands by any particular tribe or community through a series of checks and balances. Needless to say, a demand for sovereignty also calls for absolute freedom and authority within one’s own hands, state which will create serious issues for the particular governing state. Even such groups such as the NSCN-IM are aware that according to the present strategies of the state, absolute sovereignty and independence is unachievable but what they need right now is the identity and respect for the uniqueness of their tribe and the recognition of their culture and traditions. The Indian Constitution also contains “special provisions” for certain States and regions. Article 371(A) ensures that “religious or social practices of the Nagas“, “Naga customary law and procedure” and “ownership and transfer of land and its resources” is protected. The arena of defense, international relations and finance, all three major components are being governed by the Indian Government, while the rest (as mentioned above) are dealt internally by the Nagas and their leaders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is not the first one to take steps towards the situation in Nagaland. Former Prime Minister of India, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, also initiated such dialogues with the people of Nagaland, and NSCN-IM and recognized the “unique history” of the Nagas, while admitting that mistakes had been committed in the past with respect to such a vast community in India. Back then, the former Prime Minister also acknowledged the jawans from Nagaland who had sacrificed their lives during the Kargil war, a fact which itself was reflective of their love for the nation, just like any other Indian. Hence it would be fair to say that Narendra Modi is doing what was earlier left undone with respect to the Naga community. The purpose of having a dialogue with the community and meeting their demands will ultimately go a long way of ensuring the achievement of their peace and satisfaction with the government of India.
R.N. Ravi, the negotiator with the Naga Community on behalf of the Government of India (the Modi Government, to be precise) stated that, “The agreement will restore the pride of the Naga people and their dignity. Their linguistic traditions will also be promoted. It is only because of misunderstandings that we have been fighting”. How much the Government now does for this issue cannot be ascertained at the moment. Once the issue is presented and debated in the Parliament, only then the future of the Naga community can be accurately predicted. Another official of the Government says, ‘but ensuring it delivers a historic closure to the Naga insurgency will rest on how nimble we are in addressing the many problems that will surface in coming months, especially challenges from rival insurgents’. This implies that the center has to be firm in taking stands with respect to any agitation raised by not just the Naga Community but any other such groups, asany action of suppression might lead to a major setback to the peace attempts taken by the government.
The government has to ensure that it keeps peace terms with the Naga community and further make sure that both the community and the government continue to maintain a proper dialogue with each other. The NSCN (IM) general secretary ThMuivah has acknowledged the present move taken by the center and appreciates it as being the first move by the government in peaceful terms without the use of military against the Naga community. But he also added, ‘If the Government of India respects the rights of the Nagas, Nagas can come closer to India, otherwise there can be no meeting point. Therefore, sovereignty of Nagas has to be worked out’. At the present time, this debate seems to have created a political deadlock as neither the center will propose to give absolute sovereignty and power to the Naga people headed by the NSCN-IM, rather it will aim at the usual notion of ‘peaceful arrangement’ of checks and balances by giving them relief ‘to an extent’, nor the Naga community headed by the NSCN will take a back-stand, as it will continue to draw the attention of the center towards the grant of a sovereign status.
What will be the ultimate result of this peace agreement can only be adjudicated upon once the agreement is presented in the Parliament and the debates related to the issue of the Naga community further take place. This will undoubtedly open many new horizons of hope for a better Naga community and the step taken by the Government is commendable in this regard, even though the actual outcome is yet to be known. The next move taken by the Government with respect to the issue would prove to be a very crucial one indeed.