As hopes never die, the centre is expecting the acceptance of a ceasefire by Khango Konyak of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) to bring lasting peace in Nagaland. Konyak had recently sent feelers to the centre for a ceasefire.

The centre cannot be blamed for pinning its hopes on this. An effective ceasefire could have a positive impact on the future peace process of Nagaland, which plunged into turmoil in 1952. But the question, is can feelers from Konyak really work?

It is premature even to say that the ceasefire really will take place – 80 such attempts and 18 major initiatives were taken over the past decades towards this but have failed. And the impeachment and expulsion of Konyak from the NSCN(K) is hardly cause for rejoicing.

To understand the Nagaland imbroglio, we must delve deep into its roots.

Naga Problem: Part of the British Legacy

India inherited the Nagaland crisis as part of the troubled legacy of the British Raj, which introduced the “Inner Line” regulation in 1873 for its imperialistic ends.

The “Inner Line” clause, a part of the British divide and rule policy, separated and alienated Naga people from others.

Again in 1918, the British helped the chiefs of some Naga tribes to form the “Naga Club” in Kohima, which soon turned into a regular political forum. This ideologically pushed the hill-people towards terrorism for a separate country after 1947.

In 1935, Naga Hills and Tuensang became “Excluded Areas”, thus isolating the people living there from others.

World War II: A Turning Point in Naga History

Nagaland’s insurgency has a direct link with the Second World War, which exposed the tribes of the state to guerilla warfare for the first time. They seized dumps of armaments left by the retreating Japanese Army to use them against the Indian army.

The Naga Hills Tribal Council was formed in 1945 and was renamed the Naga National Council in Wokha in 1946.

The ethnic Nagas got the term “National” for the first time. This term had a massive impact on alienating them from rest of India after 1947.

1947: Naga Imbroglio Begins

After the independence of India, a Naga delegation visited Delhi to tell Jawaharlal Nehru that they refused to join the Republic of India. Nehru opposed it totally, leading them to declare the independence of Nagaland. The armed insurgency began.

In 1950 the Naga National Council (NNC) formally declared independence. It boycotted the first Lok Sabha election of 1952. In 1956 it formed a parallel government thus fuelling an armed insurgency.

On March 30 1953, Nehru visited Kohima where he was opposed by the people, who alleged that Indian leaders never tried to understand the wishes of the Naga people.

Soon after Nehru returned to Delhi, Nagaland turned rebellious and the centre deployed the army there.

Naga Insurgency after 1953

On March 22 1956, the NNC declared the formation of the Federal Government of Nagaland hoisting its own flag, forming the Naga Home Guard and a parliament, the Tatar Hoho.

Although the state of Nagaland was formed on December 1 1963, with P.Shilu Ao as chief minister, the fights of insurgents with the Indian Army continued unabated.

The China, Pakistan and Bangladesh Hands

Since the 1950s Beijing had been showing various areas of northeast India as part of China in its map, and helping Nagaland insurgents with arms, ammunition, money and guerilla training.

No wonder Kaito Sema, then the leader of Naga insurgents, went to Beijing to meet Phizo who was living there.

As Sema sought cooperation between the Federal Government of Nagaland and the People’s Republic of China, Beijing began helping the Naga guerillas. After 1972 China further stepped up its assistance to the Naga rebels.

Pakistan too helped the Naga insurgents weaken India. In 1962, Kaito Sema even went to Pakistan for training in guerilla warfare and to procure arms, followed by Phizo’s visit to Karachi in the same year.

On May 20 1962, Phizo even told the media in London that in the event of a plebiscite, he supported joining Pakistan.

Some 2,500 Naga insurgents were trained by the army in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). As late as 2000, on January 19, Muivah went to Karachi. The Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence actively supports the underground militants even today.

In Bangladesh during the period of army rule, Naga insurgents received massive help from Dhaka. The main purpose was to weaken India’s hold over its northeastern region. A large number of rebels from the northeast continue to live in Bangladesh.

Insurgent Groups of Nagaland

One of the primary reasons why Konyak’s peace overtures may not succeed is the ongoing faction fights within the NSCN(K) and other insurgent outfits, who also indulge in armed clashes among themselves.

Konyak was ousted recently from the NSCN(K) and Yung Aung, its new chairman, has refused this ceasefire.

Aung said that in view of Konyak’s past services to the organisation he would be given “safe passage through NSCN(K) occupied territory”.

This clearly indicates that Konyak’s power is ebbing and the NSCN(K) wants him to go away, maybe to China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand or Myanmar.

The following insurgent groups are active in the state, most of whom did not approve Konyak’s ceasefire proposal:

- Naga National Council-Adino, operating since the 1940s under the leadership of Angami Zapu

- NSCN (Isak-Muivah), operating since January 31, 1980 to create “Greater Nagaland” based on Mao
Tse Tung’s model

- NSCN (Khaplang), formed on April 30 1988 to create “Greater Nagaland” based on ethnicity
comprising Naga-dominated pockets of India and Myanmar

- Nagaland Federal Government, operating since the 1970s

- Naga Federal Army, active since the 1970s with its insurgents trained in China.

Timeline of Ceasefires

1947 (August): The Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo revolts, vows to establish a sovereign Naga Nation

  1. 1952 (May): NNC boycotts first Lok Sabha election, launches violent guerrilla war
  2. 1956 (March): Underground Naga Federal Government and Naga Federal Army formed under Phizo. Indian army comes to Nagaland, Phizo escapes to Pakistan
  3. 1958: Separatist war grips Nagaland. Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act enacted in Naga Hills District
  4. 1960 (June): Phizo goes to London from Pakistan
  5. 1963 (December): Nagaland becomes a state
  6. 1964: Jai Prakash Narayan, B.P. Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott lead Peace Mission which fails
  7. 1975 (November): Shillong Accord signed between the centre and the NNC. But violence continues. Thuingaleng Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu and S.S.Khaplang refuse to sign it
  8. 1980: NSCN formed by Thuingaleng Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu and S.S.Khaplang
  9. 1988: NSCN splits into NSCN(IM) and NSCN(Khaplang) after violent group clashes
  10. 1991: Phizo dies in London
  11. 1995 (June): P.V.Narasimha Rao meets Muivah and Isak in Paris
  12. 1997 (February): Deve Gowda meets leaders of NSCN(IM) in Zurich
  13. 1997 (July): Ceasefire agreement signed with NSCN(IM)
  14. 1998 (September): Atal Bihari Vajpayee meets with NSCN(IM) in Paris
  15. 2003 (January): Muivah and Isak hold talks with Vajpayee and L.K.Advani in Delhi
  16. 2004 (December): The NSCN(IM) holds talks with Manmohan Singh
  17. 2007 (July): The NSCN(IM) and the centre sign a ceasefire for an indefinite period.

Amlan Home Chowdhury is a journalist with 35 years’ experience.