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Nagaland Peace Accord: Background of the landmark peace deal

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By Gaurav Sharma

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today signed a peace accord with the Naga insurgents in what was a landmark deal agreed upon almost 40 years after the failure of a similar treaty that was inked in Shillong in 1975.

Nagaland and other north-eastern states have been mired in violence ever since the Shillong Accord led to the splintering of the Naga rebel movement which started in the mid-twentieth century.

Naga rebel movement- The Beginning

The Naga rebel movement began a day before India’s independence on 15th August 1947. 17 major tribes and 20 major sub-tribes, although speaking different languages, united under the framework of the Naga National Council (NNC) and voiced boisterous calls for an independent Nagaland, a demand for which they vowed to fight tooth-and-nail.

Angami Zapu Phizo, NNC’s leader held a referendum in May 1951 claiming the 99 per cent of Nagas had voted for a sovereign Nagaland, a notion that the Indian government outrightly dismissed.

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The following year NNC boycotted the general elections and instead launched a secessionist coup in what is now the oldest insurgency movement in India.

What began as sporadic attacks on police outposts and villages for funds and arms soon metamorphosed into an underground military movement known as Naga Federal Government(NMG) with its own Naga Federal Army (NFA).

To ameliorate the violent outpouring, the Indian government imposed the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on 11 September 1958, deeming the Seven sister states as “disturbed territory”.

In 1963, Assam was divided and Nagaland was declared an independent state. Peace was on the horizon when, in 1967, the NNC launched a paroxysm of violence on the Army units posted in the region.

Subsequently, the NMG and NFA were declared “unlawful associations” and a crackdown was launched by the Indian army on the rebels. In 1975, the Shillong Accord was signed between the Centre and the NNC, under which the rebel group accepted the Indian constitution and agreed to surrender their weapons.

Defining the turbulent nature of federalism in the north-east, the NNC fractured into another terror group called the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), a coterie of 140 activists who repudiated the Shillong Accord and refused to lay down the arms.

The prominent leaders under the group formed in 1980 included Thuengaling Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu and SS Khaplang.

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Lead of the NSCN (K faction) -Thuengaling Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu

The NSCN further bifurcated into the Konyak (IM faction) and the Tangkhul (K faction) in 1988.  SS Khaplang and Khole Konyak headed the Konyaks whereas Isak Swu and Muivah led the Tangkhuls. The NSCN (IM) was formed with Angami Zapu Phizo’ s daughter as the Vice-Chairman of the organization.

NSCN’s (IM) claims

The NSCN (IM) claims that the Naga region was never a part of the Indian union and hence its fight for an independent Nagaland cannot be termed as a “secessionist” movement.

Furthermore, it expounds the theory that Nagaland was never “inherited” from the British and that the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was wrong in asserting such a notion.

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J.L. Nehru meeting Naga tribes

Its demand is forthright in that the Naga-dominated areas of the districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Tamenlong and Chandel should be made part of “Greater Nagalim”, a command which has been strongly resisted by the neighbouring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Assam.

Meanwhile, the newly formed Naga Tribal Alliance has revolted against the NSCN (IM) backed Naga Hoba ( an outfit which professes to speak on behalf of the entire tribe) over the proposed reservations for Manipur-based Naga tribes.

What the deal portends

If the deal were to be passed in the Parliament, it holds the prospects of settling amicably the longstanding bitter standoff between the government and the insurgents.

The north-eastern states would benefit, particularly Nagaland and Manipur as they would open up to investments and development projects both from the Indian government as well as from international investors.

Rampant lawlessness including ghory activities such as kidnapping, gun-running, extortions and murders (funded from China) would be checked. Diplomatic ties with Myanmar would drastically change. Overall, India Act Policy would get a much needed boost.

Current state of affairs

To ensure peace and stability in the region, not only will the government have to deal with NSCN (IM) but will also have to address issues raised by the NSCN (K faction), which in collaboration with Ulfa and other militant groups forms the United Liberation Front of West South-East Asia.

So far despite numerous attempts, the Indian government has failed to integrate Nagaland into the mainland, although officially its stands as a part of the Indian union. The area is known to be restive with cases of murders and violence commonly reported from the region.

Apart from fighting a pitched battle for a separate state, the NSCN (IM) runs a parallel taxation structure under which businessmen, contractors and workers are levied hefty charges.

Dimapur, the largest state in Nagaland is witness to murders in broad daylight. On May 6, a mob broke open into Dimapur Central Jail and lynched a man accused of rape. The ghastly scenes were broadcast on media channels and raised a furore over the deteriorating law-and-order situation in the ‘falcon capital of the world’.

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Mob lynching a rape accused at Dimapur

In view of such an abhorrent administrative in the north-east, the present peace deal can bring much succour to the escalating epidemic of violence, particularly when it is believed that the agreement will not involve redrawing of the state’s borders.

The battle for peace, far from being over, has only begun. Stability will depend on the ability of the Indian government to bring all stakeholders, including rival insurgents on board and striking a consensus before violence flares-up, again.

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .