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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.

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India’s President ‘Ram Nath Kovind’ Designates ‘Narendra Modi’ as PM for Second Term

The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament

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Newly elected lawmakers from India's ruling alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party raise their hands in support of Narendra Modi's election as their leader in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

India’s president on Saturday appointed Narendra Modi as the prime minister soon after newly elected lawmakers from the ruling alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, elected him as their leader following a thunderous victory in national elections.

President Ram Nath Kovind said in a tweet that he also asked Modi to forward the names of those to be appointed as ministers in his government and the date for the swearing-in for his second five-year term as prime minister. Modi and some leaders of his alliance met the president on Saturday.

Media reports said Modi was likely to be sworn in by Kovind on Thursday.

BJP president Amit Shah announced Modi’s name as the leader of the National Democratic Alliance in a meeting of the lawmakers in the Central Hall of Parliament in New Delhi.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, second right, hugs senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader M.M. Joshi as L.K. Advani, left, watches after Modi’s election as ruling alliance leader, in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, after the official vote count from the six-week-long election was completed on Friday. That is well beyond the simple majority a party in India needs to form a government.

The BJP’s top rival, the Indian National Congress led by Rahul Gandhi, won 52 seats, and the All India Trinamool Congress led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee won 22.

Unity movement

Critics say Modi and his party have applied divisive policies and used a Hindu-first strategy. But Modi said after Saturday’s vote that “this election has become a movement of social unity.” “It is generally said that the election divides, creates distances, makes walls. But the 2019 elections have worked to break the walls,” he said in his address.

On Friday, Modi met with his outgoing Cabinet ministers and later presented his resignation to the country’s president. The president asked the officials to continue to serve until the new government assumes office.

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The Election Commission announced that the BJP won 303 out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. VOA

Gandhi, whose great-grandfather, grandmother and father were all prime ministers, personally conceded his seat, long a Congress party bastion, to his BJP rival, India’s textiles minister, marking the end of an era for modern India’s most powerful political dynasty.

Counting of the estimated 600 million ballots cast over six weeks of staggered polling — the world’s largest democratic exercise — began early Thursday.

ALSO READ: Here’s How TikTok Made PM Modi Popular Among Young Voters

Hindu-first politics

The victory was largely seen as a referendum on Modi’s Hindu-first politics that some observers say have bred intolerance toward Muslims and other religious minorities, as well as his muscular stance on neighboring Pakistan, with whom India nearly went to war earlier this year after suicide attacks killed more than 40 Indian security officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Modi effectively used the incident as a major campaign tool after responding to the attack with an airstrike in Pakistan that triggered nationalist sentiments, with the BJP saying Modi is the right person to ensure India’s national security. (VOA)