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Naga Peace Accord: Ushering Stability in North-East India

The Government of India and NSCN (IM) signed a historic peace accord in New Delhi on August 03, 2015 thereby heralding a renewed commitment for peace and prosperity in Nagaland. After signing of the peace accord, Prime Minister Modi mentioned that peace, security and economic transformation of the region was one of his main priorities after coming to power last year. The contours of the peace process can have a cascading impact in improving the security situation in the entire region that has borne the brunt of insurgency since 1956.The Naga insurgency had also impacted neighbouring states of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh besides Nagaland. The region has witnessed emergence of insurgent groups in all states except Arunachal Pradesh. Barring the Mizo Peace Accord, no peace accord has led to end of hostilities. In Nagaland, the ceasefire agreement signed by NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) in 1987 with the Indian Government had led to cessation of operations by the security forces till NSCN (K) violated the ceasefire rules and had attacked an army convoy on June 4, 2015. The NDA government had indicated its intent on resolving the insurgency in Nagaland by laying down an 18 month time limit in November 2014. Thus signing the peace agreement barely after nine months can be interpreted as a clear signal by the government to bring about early and peaceful resolution to conflicts in the region. The government’s resolve is bound to sway other insurgent groups to consider joining the mainstream and shed insurgent activities.

Insurgency movements have been simmering in the northeast for the last six decades due to the political, economic and cultural differences among various ethnic communities as well as perceived injustice by the central government. Apart from these reasons, the societal fragmentation, pressure on resources, perceptional differences and lack of understanding of the socio-economic predicament of the northeast region by the central government have aided the alienation. External migrations into the region as well as tacit support to the ethnic causes have led to the emergence of a number of insurgent groups. These groups have resorted to violent means to claim autonomy, for economic considerations and political representation, thus, leading to the security forces launching counter-insurgency operations. Although none of the movements has succeeded because of resolute action by the security forces, the prolonged violence has led to low levels of development and a sense of unease due to uncertain security situation. There are over 68 insurgent groups in the Northeast with almost 15 active insurgent groups. A study of the last one decade shows that the region witnessed almost 12,000 incidents and over 31,000 insurgents[1] were killed/ surrendered/apprehended by the security forces. The region has witnessed an increase in the number of insurgent incidents since 2011. Over 655 insurgents[2] were killed from 2011 to 2014 in the region as compared to 349 insurgents in J&K, though the issue was never a focus in the print and electronic media. Analysis also proved that lack of job opportunities and availability of easy money had led to increased criminalisation and resorting to communal violence as a means to justify insurgent actions.

 

The Look East Policy of the government has led to a sustained focus on the regional development for trade and strategic partnership with the neighbouring countries. There has been a concerted effort to develop and improve infrastructure. Improved bi-lateral relations with Bangladesh and Myanmar have led to reduced support to the insurgent groups and better trade opportunities. A number of insurgent leaders have been arrested and weapon consignments seized in the recent past. Development of infrastructure in terms of road network under the SARDP-NE, Kaladan multi mode transportation project with Myanmar, usage of Chittagong port for transhipment of goods to Tripura and rail network will give a much needed boost to improve the economic situation and the people to people contact.

Challenges remain in form of continuing illegal migration, continuing violent activities of active insurgent groups, presence of Muslim insurgent groups and their sleeper cells. Resolute actions by security forces have led to large number of insurgent groups having signed agreements for Suspension of Operations. However, the security forces have to remain vigilant and continue their operations against the renegade groups. The government’s stance of not holding talks with insurgent groups resorting to violence and splinter groups along with the people’s desire for peace will compel many groups re-examine their stance. The common man has been the biggest victim of the decades long insurgency. It is time for a silent revolution to assert right to peaceful life. The signing of the peace accord is a new beginning, a renewed attempt to resolve issues and meet aspirations of the people. Given the Modi Government’s willingness to re-negotiate with insurgent groups, the present Naga peace accord must be seen as an indisputable act to usher long lasting peace in the region. The government has taken the first determined step, it now remains to be seen whether insurgent leaders are in reality fighting for the people’s cause or are their actions a cover for clout and monetary gains.

The Author is a former senior fellow CLAWS. Views expressed by the author are personal

 

 

References

[1] MHA Annual Reports 2005-2014

[2]MHA Annual Reports 2011-2014

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Ashwani Gupta
Former Senior Fellow
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