Insurgency in Nagaland

Nagaland lies in the eastern region of India, located east of Bangladesh and sharing its eastern border with Myanmar. Due to its highly difficult terrain and relative isolation, different cultures have sprouted here at different times, sixteen different tribes developed here with their own culture and language features. The seeds of insurgency in Nagaland had been planted during British imperial rule in India. The Japanese invasion during World War II, and subsequent fighting between the Japanese and the British Indian Army, shattered the region's economy. After the war British administrators formed the Naga Hills District Council in April 1945, to rebuild and develop the region. Tribal chiefs renamed this body the Naga National Council (NNC), and some members of this council started a movement for unity among the Naga tribes, a separate electorate for the Naga region, and local autonomy. As Indian independence approached the sentiments in the NNC ranged from the acceptance of an integrated but autonomous Naga state within India to Independence for Nagaland. In 1946, A. Z. Phizo emerged on the political stage in Nagaland and began pushing the idea of Independence more forcefully.
The Hydari Agreement

After independence, an agreement is signed between the Indian Government and NNC over the status of Nagaland within India. This agreement is known as the Hydari Agreement, named after Sir Akbar Hydari, the then-governor of Assam, who negotiated the agreement with the NNC. Under Hydari Agreement, NNC gained the right to impose, collect, and spend taxes in the region, and the Agreement recognized the right of Naga peoples to govern and administer their affairs in keeping with their tribal customs and traditions. In addition, no Act would be enacted without the consent of the Naga people. The final clause of the Agreement was that, for a period of ten years, the Governor of Assam would have special responsibilities over the Naga region to ensure that the agreement was observed. At the end of ten years, Hydari Agreement provided that the central government would ask the NNC whether it wanted to extend the Agreement or arrive at a new agreement.

Hardline NNC members, especially Phizo, interpreted the final clause as the recognition of the Independent Nagaland. This indicates that the Hydari Agreement did not have the intended effect of settling the political status of Nagaland within India. Opinion in Nagaland was shifting in a different direction. Naga people declared their freedom on 14 August 1947. However, NNC did not form a different government, which made the declaration of independence somewhat hollow.

In the late 1940s and 1950s situation became worse as NNC refused to cooperate in working out the arrangements for tribal autonomy in Assam, of which Naga hill district was a part. India's 1952 general elections were boycotted by Naga leaders. Phizo and the secessionists organized a strategy of non-cooperation and launched a propaganda campaign to raise fears of Indian subjugation of the Naga way of life. In march 1955, Phizo declared the formation of the Naga Federal Government, with its own constitution and British-style parliament, a cabinet of ministers, and the army. By 1956, the Naga army had approximately 3000 men under arms. This was the beginning of the Naga insurgency.

Political objectives and strategies of the insurgency

The only political objective of insurgents was complete autonomy, which was not acceptable to the Indian government at any cost. The clash of ideology between the Indian government and Nagas regarding the status of the Naga region gave rise to the insurgency in the region. But objectives of insurgency have changed over time. India's various civilian and military responses helped in splits in the Naga insurgency movement, which weakened its political coherence and produced different political agendas among the insurgent factions. Some of these insurgents rejected the violence and joined the political mainstream, while others are still engaged in the armed struggle. As happened in every insurgency (Kashmir, Punjab, Naxalites), the faction that relied more on violence started taking outside assistance (China and Pakistan) and later took the political position of their foreign supporters. Meanwhile, certain tribes started dominating, making the struggle less of Naga peoples and more hostile to each other. What began as an effort to conserve the Naga culture and identity transformed into a more compelled threat with less political coherence and sustained by forces outside Nagaland.

Foreign involvement in the insurgency

As we have witnessed in every insurgency, the Naga insurgency was also got affected by the virus from China and Pakistan and credit goes to the geopolitical rivalries between India, Pakistan, and China. Nagaland's proximity to Myanmar also indicates that insurgents used the place as a training center and for staging attacks in Nagaland. Unlike in Kashmir, insurgency in Nagaland is not developed by the other countries, but it thrived with foreign support. Chinese and Pakistani assistance for the Naga insurgency escalated during the 1960s because of the rising political tension and military conflicts with India. Chinese support for the movement came much due to its displeasure with India's policy of supporting the Tibetan Resistance movement and sheltering refugees from Tibet, including the Dalai Lama and his followers. The other reason for Chinese assistance could be understood as its motive to distract the Indian government from its global development. Pakistan's only aim behind the support of the insurgency in Nagaland is to destabilize and weaken India, particularly in India's vulnerable northeast region. In response to this India too supported the rebels in East Pakistan, which ultimately results in the break up of Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh. However, the loss of East Pakistan limited the influence of Pakistan on the Naga insurgency.

Myanmar provided a platform for the insurgents its role in the insurgency is a little much complicated. The Naga insurgents operated extensively in northern Myanmar, over which the Yangon government had little control because of its own insurgency challenges. The political vacuum created a convenient place for Naga insurgents to utilize the place for training, staging attacks, and transiting fighters and weapons to and from China. In addition to this Naga insurgent leaders like Phizo, also attempted to beg support from other countries. Like Phizo sought diplomatic support for the Naga cause from the United Kingdom, United States, and United Nations. However, these efforts failed to produce any political pressure on India from these countries.

Key turning points in the evolution of  the insurgency

The key turning points for the insurgency connect to successive political and military developments that weakened the ideas and the material power of the insurgents. Different efforts of India to accommodate Nagas' desires for an autonomous state played different roles in the evolution of the Naga insurgency. These efforts include the creation of the formal state of Nagaland in 1963; the holding of the elections in the state of Nagaland in 1964; the conclusion of the Shillong accord in 1975, in which some insurgents accepted the sovereignty of India over Nagaland; the cease-fire Agreement concluded in July 1997, which is still in force. The result of all these developments is seen in the splits in the insurgency movement that occurred over time, especially in the 1980s.

In terms of military aspects, the key turning point begin with the introduction of the Indian Army in 1955. However, Army's induction was not wholly successful because the army became involved in the conflict. Yet these mistakes did not cripple the Indian COIN effort. A political split in the insurgency movement in 1968 eroded the potential of the revival of the movement, allowing the Indian Army to undertake successful missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s that further weakened the military strength of the insurgency and their willingness to fight.

Insurgency in Nagaland is still an issue and it is the future that will witness the end of the insurgency. The people of Nagaland will have to make the final call, to whom they will support, they will have to make a choice between peace and suffering from the insurgency. Their future lies in their hand, however, a lot is to be done by the Indian government.

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