Explained: The Naga Insurgency

The dictionary definition of Insurgency is an active revolt or uprising. The scholarly definition would be “a protracted struggle conducted methodically, step by step, in order to attain specific intermediate objectives leading finally to the overthrow of the existing order.”

Along with the independence in 1947, India inherited a lot of problem of the British Raj days. The most intractable and ongoing is the Nagaland Insurgency energised by the tribesmen of the erstwhile Naga Hills and Tuensang that now constitute the State of Nagaland.

As the Centre inches closer towards resolving the seven-decade-old issue, we bring to you a timeline and key events of the Nagaland Insurgency.

1826 – Annexation of Assam by the Britishers

In 1873, the Lieutenant Governor of Assam, with the approval of the Governor-General of British India, announced the Bengal-Eastern Frontier Regulation, which brought into force what came to be known as the ‘Inner Line’. Under these regulations, the people from the plains were prevented from entering the Naga areas except the Christian Missionaries. This saved the Nagas from “exploitation by outsiders and sudden disruption of Naga culture”, but it was successful in isolating them from the national mainstream.

1881 – Naga Hills become a part of British India

1918 – First signs of Naga resistance with the formation of Naga Club

1929 – The Naga Club tells the Simon Commission “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times

1935 – Under the Government of India Act, Naga Hills excluded from reform scheme. British declared the Naga areas as an ‘excluded area’. E Cadogan, a member of the Simon Commission, declares in the House of Commons that the Nagas have “a very shrewd suspicion that something is being done to take away from them their immemorial rights and customs

Impact of the World Wars

During World War I the Naga members of the Labour Corps brought money and dresses, but World War II was fought in Nagaland itself. Nagas were introduced to modern guerrilla fighting and the dumps of arms and ammunition left by the retreating Japanese Army provided ready material to be used against the security forces later.

1946 – Formation of the Naga National Council (NNC)

The council was composed of 29 members representing different tribes, on the basis of proportional representation. The political objective of the Naga National Council was the solidarity of all Nagas, including those of the unadministered areas and the inclusion of their hills within the province of Assam in a free India, with local autonomy and adequate safeguards for the interest of the Nagas.

1947 – NNC under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo declares Nagaland an independent state

“The Nagas have every right to be independent. I want you to feel that India is yours. I feel that the Naga Hills are mine just as much as they are yours… Why wait for August 15 to declare independence. I will come to Kohima and ask Army to shoot me before they shoot one Naga,” said Mahatama Gandhi.

However, India’s PM Jawaharlal Nehru had a different opinion.  “It is doubtful whether the Nagas realise the consequences of what they are asking for. For their present demand would ruin them.”

1951 – NNC conducts a referendum in which “99%” support an “independent” Nagaland

1952 – Phizo forms the underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA).

1958 – Government of India enacts the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

1963 – Then President Radhakrishnan inaugurated the state of Nagaland at a grand function at Kohima on December 1, 1963.

1964 – Erstwhile Assam CM Bimala Prasad Chaliha, Jai Prakash Narain and Rev. Michael Scott form a peace mission, the government and NNC sign an agreement to suspend operations.

1967 – The Peace Mission is abandoned after six rounds of talks, a massive counter-insurgency operation is launched.

1975 – A section of NNC leaders agree to signing the Shillong Accord, under which NNC and NFG agree to give up arms

1980 – Under the leadership of Thuingaleng Muivah, 140 members unhappy with the Shillong Accord form the National Socialist Council of Nagaland

1988 – NSCN splits into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) following a violent clash

1991 – Phizo’s death followed fading of NNC, NSCN (IM) seen as “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.

Efforts at Diplomatic Talks

First serious attempt at finding a solution made by then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao

1995PV Narasimha Rao meets Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu in Paris

1996 – Former union minister for state Rajesh Pilot went to Bangkok to convince the Naga leaders for talks

1997Deve Gowda meets NSCN(IM) leadership in Zurich

Ceasefire agreement signed between India and NSCN(IM)

1998Atal Bihari Vajpayee meets NSCN(IM) leaders in Paris

2003 – Muivah and Isak hold talks with Vajpayee and LK Advani in Delhi

Atal Bihari Vajpayee visits Kohima and won Naga Hearts with his oratorial skills

“It is true that of all the states in India, Nagaland has a unique history. We are sensitive to this historical fact. But this uniqueness has in no way diminished the spirit of patriotism among the Naga people. We have the inspiring examples of patriot Jadunong, who became a martyr, and Rani Gaidinliu. Who can forget that in critical times of war in 1962, 1965 and 1971, Naga underground organisations did not fire on the Indian Army? They showed restraint. I would also like to acknowledge the sacrifices of jawans from Nagaland during the Kargil War,” he said.

2004 – NSCN(IM) leaders meet Manmohan Singh

2007 – Ceasefire between NSCN (IM) and Government of India extended indefinitely

2015 – Centre signs the “Framework Agreement” with the NSCN(IM)

PM Narendra Modi, “Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem but the beginning of a new future.”

Image Credits – Narendra Modi / Twitter

2017 – Joint Intelligence Committee Chairman R N Ravi holds closed-door meetings with six Naga insurgent groups and various Naga organisations

Since 2007, more than 80 rounds of peace talks have been conducted between the NSCN(IM) and the Government of India. In March earlier this year, the organisation had created ripples in North East India after the organisation said that Narendra Modi had conceded to the demand for Greater Nagaland – an autonomous state integrating all the Naga-inhabited areas of neighbouring Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and some portions Myanmar, which it considers to be the rightful homeland of the Nagas – a charge that the Indian Government had denied ever since.

The question remains if the Government accedes to the demand for Greater Nagaland which would see Arunachal, Manipur and Assam losing large swathes of land or they can find a middle way out and solve the never-ending crisis.


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