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Lok Sabha TV Insights: Naga Peace Deal

Lok Sabha TV Insights: Naga Peace Deal

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05 August 2015

                     Peace deal has just been inked between Government of India and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) and this will be perhaps biggest landmark towards achieving stability and peace in the region. For development of northeast and overall success of India’s Act East policy, peace and stability are prerequisite.

Nagaland issue has been there even before independence. In 1918, few educated Nagas came together to form Naga Club. The club also gave representation to Simon Commission in 1928, to claim their distinctness from rest of India. From very beginning they have been rallying for sovereignty from India. But problem is that areas inhabited and claimed by them are not their exclusive claims. There are numerous other tribes and cultures who claim same region to be their homeland.

Nagas are divided in numerous factions who have bitter differences among them. In past, major violence was seen occurring among them. They also claim some areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, which they say are part of Greater Nagaland. Before Independence, British demarcated Indo-Burma boundary, due to which some Naga areas went into Myanmar.

Nagaland people form Naga National Council (NNC) declared independence in 1954 which followed armed response from Indian state. This followed negotiations which curtailed into separate statehood in 1963, later it was also given special state status. By this time Indian forces had unleashed disproportionate force on nagas and this caused resentment which revived voice of separatism. Finally, peace accord in 1975 Shillong Agreement was signed and top naga leaders joined civilian politics. Still some people refused to give up and formed National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

Main interest of Nagas has been to protect their unique cultural identity and autonomy in their affairs. This time government has been sensitive enough to explicitly recognize this uniqueness. Further, in recent deal NSCN (IM) has been treated as an equal power by GOI. Content of agreement is not disclosed to public. In previous such deals it was seen that much fanfare and public scrutiny results in deal being sabotaged.

Main challenge for government is to meet expectation of Nagas without hurting interests of surrounding states. Deal is said to have provided for cultural integration of Naga areas in surrounding states. This won’t include territorial claims. It may be on the lines of Ladhak or Darjeeling Autonomous Hill Development Councils. However, political parties of other states will undoubtedly resist even this interference, atleast to drive political mileage out of the issue. Further, it will be even harder of NSCN (IM) to bring other factions and more aspirational nagas on board. Within naga community there might political mobilization against NSCN (IM) on rhetoric that Naga’s interest has been undermined. However, we have quite strong government in center and NSCN (IM) is perhaps most influential group in north east. In such scenario, it is reasonable to expect that peace will prevail.

This government has, since beginning, given special attention to historically neglected regions, be it Jammu and Kashmir, North East or Maoist affected region. For north east, exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh has resolved a long standing problem. Recent engagement has also provided direct passenger transit route from Bangladesh through bus, which runs from Agartala to Kolkata via Dhaka. This has reduced travel time from three days to one day. Rail link is also being developed between Tripura and Bangladesh. Further, on recent visit PM also signed MOU on use of Chittagong and Mongla Port in south east Bangladesh. This will save enormous freight costs and time for trade with North East. So recent development fit well in larger picture and it remains to be seen that whether both parties live upto the spirit of the agreement.