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Unquiet hills of the north-east - The Observer

Pran Nath Luthra ()
17 November 1997

Title: Unquiet hills of the north-east
Author: Pran Nath Luthra
Publication: The Observer
Date: November 17, 1997

For some 50 years, peace has eluded Nagaland. Even to this day, a permanent enduring peace seems a mirage. The problem has gathered much dross which has obscured its true implications. Dr Verrier Elwin in his book Nagaland (Shillong, 1961) has observed that "the Naga disturbances are unique in having an almost entirely political foundation". It is an unassailable proven fact that ever since 1947, the Indian government has exerted neither any economic exploitation of the Naga people, nor socio-cultural p
essures to change their indigenous way of life.

The demand of the Naga insurgents for independence by the use of arms is not an intrinsic movement but planted, abetted and sustained by foreign powers hostile to India. The Naga National Council (NNC), the political body tenaciously vowed to political independence, was in its initial shape raised by Sir Charles Pawsey, the British Deputy Commissioner, in 1945 in Kohima. Even earlier in 1918, the Naga Club was founded by the British officers, then serving in Kohima district. A few Naga village elders wer
members of the Naga Club, but it was the dominant British element which framed its objectives and regulated its course of development. In 1929, when the Simon Commission went to Kohima, the Naga Club deposed that they did not ask for any political reforms, but wanted the status quo to continue the status quo of British rule over them with the exclusion of any links with the rest of India. When around 1947, the political independence of India was under consideration, the British had formulated the propos
l for the creation of a new political unit, comprising the tribal areas in India and Burma.

Pakistan has been truculent in giving unabated support of finance, arms and political sinews to the Naga insurgents to persist in the terrorist acts and revolt against India. To foment Naga trouble was Pakistan's long term three-pronged strategy to disintegrate India, to strain its economy and to divert the Indian troops to Nagaland for relieving the pressure on Kashmir. In early 1962, Kaito Sema, the commander-in-chief of the Naga home guards went to Pakistan for training and to acquire arms for terroris
activities in India. On May 20, 1962, Phizo visited Karachi to oversee the training of the Naga underground men. Phizo in a thankful mood towards Pakistan said in London on May 8, 1963 that in case of a plebiscite, Nagas would have the choice to join Pakistan also. Between 1962 and 1968, some ten Naga groups had visited Pakistan to procure monetary and weapon help from Pakistan. The erstwhile East Pakistan had trained some 2500 Naga underground men and had supplied a large amount of money and arms. Today
such assistance continues at the behest of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which has built a nest in the jungles adjoining Manipur, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand.

China's role has been highly significant both in material and morale-building terms. The Chinese aid commenced at the end of 1966. Angami and Thinuselie Muiva Tangkhul of the NSCN (I-M) was the first to cross over with 100 Nagas to China in November 1966 and return In January 1968 with a load of arms and military stores.

China wanted to set ablaze the eastern sector of India with insurgency as it would emasculate the unity and power of India.

The underground Naga insurgency thus started due to encouragement of the foreign powers - Britain, Pakistan and China. Of these, Pakistan and China supplied the Nagas with the vital wherewithal of money, arms and training and the inspiration to accelerate the momentum of their violence against the Indian government.

Former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao initiated the phase of peace talks with the underground Nagas. He was eager to conclude a ceasefire prior to the general elections in 1996. For this purpose, this principal secretary A N Verma reportedly met Isak Chishi Swu and Thingaleng Muivah in New York and Paris without any results. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda met the two NSCN (I-M) leaders on February 3 1997 in Zurich. This beginning was followed up by Prime Minister I K Gujral whose principal secr
tary N N Vohra recently met Isak Chishi Swu and Thingaleng Muivah in Bangkok. This Proved infructuous because the under. ground Naga leaders want to hold talks with Indian Politicians and not with the bureaucrats.

In order to achieve peace in Nagaland, one faces a web of complicated issues. First, the hostile party is not a single unified group but composed of at least four groups riven with mutual conflicts. Secondly, Manipur, adjacent to Nagaland, has a substantial Naga population. Chief minister Rishang Keishing and his party in Manipur are opposed to any change in the integrity of Manipur. Thirdly, chief minister S C Jamir and his Nagaland Pradesh Congress Party must have a major say in any peace initiatives.

Fourth, the underground hostile group NSCN (I-M) styles itself as the Naga representative organisation par excellence. This group views chief ministers Rishang Keishing, S C Jamir and the underground ,group NSCN (Khaplang) led by Myanmar Hemi Naga Khaplang as traitors and puppets. The two other hostile groups are the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Adino (the daughter of Phizo) and the breakaway NNC group under Khodao Lotha.

Breaking across this complicated web shall offer a knot-ridden obstacle race. Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda and I K Gujral have nevertheless embarked upon this course with a genuine laudable desire for the combined and shared peace, advancement and stability of India and Nagaland - The peace initiative now dangles precariously on the ability to cede ground among the conflicting parties and arrive at a compromise. Here, let us mark the recalcitrant stand of the NSCN(I-M) which questions the very basic inclusio
of Nagaland as a part of India. "Nagaland was never a part of India ... there had never been a union" assert both Isaak Chishi Swu and Thingaleng Muivah.

The central government has unilaterally extended the ceasefire for three months from November 1, 1997 to February 1, 1998. Chief minister S C Jamir has welcomed it while the underground NSCN (I-M) has agreed to it. However, another major underground group NSCN (Khaplang) has not responded so far. It does not seem likely that in the next three months, the underground organisations will commit any violent act.

The central government has yet to furnish up its negotiation team. Thus until February 1, 1998, there may not be any forward move towards peace parleys.

Negotiations are possible only when the government is in a position of strength. For this, elimination of the insurgents' bases and interruption of their lines am necessary,

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