Nagaland: Political history
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Naga peace accords: 1975-2015
The Times of India, Aug 06 2015
From Shillong to Delhi, Muivah came full circle as he signed Naga peace accord
Landmarks in Naga political history are measured not so much by the official record as by the personal reactions of leaders of men. In No of leaders of men. In November 1975, when the Shillong Accord was signed between the Indian government and the rebel leadership, Thuingaleng Muivah, then 41, and Isak Chisi Swu, 45, were on their way home with a fresh batch of trained cadre from southern China, and heard the news somewhere in the forbidding terrain that marks the border between Kachin and Konyak Naga lands in northwestern Myanmar. In later years, in private conversation, both leaders would mention how livid they were at what they saw as a fatal weakness in the rebel leadership: an acceptance of the Indian Constitution, for one, and a separate agreement on Naga claims in Manipur.
Muivah and Swu, and their other comrade-in-arms, S S Khaplang, never forgave Angami Zapu Phizo, the father of the Naga movement, for the Shillong Accord. The Indian state, never a likeable player when dealing with its “misguided children“ in the best of times, has seldom been as reliant on brute force as it was in the winter of 1975, during the Emergency .
But the Shillong Accord paved the way for a fracturing of the Naga leader ship, and those who opposed peace were the hardest of hardliners. Five years later, Muivah, Swu and Khaplang formed the NSCN. In 1988, they split further and Khaplang went his own way , swearing never to weaken as Phizo allegedly had. The Shillong Accord was inked at a time when the Naga leadership was united and had unrivalled control over the hearts of its people. That is no longer the case today. Phizo is long dead, and his organisation, the Naga National Council (NNC), a shadow of what it once was. The hohos, councils of elders, are a house divided. The two NSCNs have to deal with their own wayward flock, and not a single one of them can command the respect that Phizo did in the 1950s and 60s.
History , therefore, came full circle for Muivah in August 2015 as he stood next to the prime minister and said that the Nagas would prove to be, in his words “trustworthy“. Any claims that the deal would end violence in Nagaland are inaccurate the treaty does not cover the violent internal discord between Naga factions in the past 27 years.
The attack on the Indian army was not by Muivah's faction, but by Khaplang's, and that gentleman is based in Myanmar. The source of his power extends across the border to Indian Konyak Nagas, particularly in Nagaland's Mon district. Khaplang abrogated his group's ceasefire with the Indian government earlier in 2015 and has thrown his lot in with the United Liberation Front of Western Southeast Asia (UNLFWSEA).It is unlikely that this new umbrella group will be kindly disposed to Muivah's new deal, nor will it stay any operations it undertakes, whether in Indian territory or in Myanmar.
BJP in Nagaland’s politics, elections
1987- Feb 2018
Personalities rather than political parties or ideologies have dominated elections in Christian-majority Nagaland. This election may be no different.
Take for instance the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF), which has long been associated with the BJP. Yet this time, it is not NPF, but its offshoot and main challenger — the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) — that is fighting the election in collaboration with BJP, otherwise seen mainly as a promoter of Hindutva ideology.
The two powerful regional parties even chose not to support the Church openly last week when it warned Naga voters of an ‘invasion’ by Hindutva forces in the state.
Defending BJP, its timetested ally, NDPP president Neiphiu Rio said, “My party has aligned with BJP to protect Christianity.”
In no time, NPF chief minister TR Zeliang expressed his readiness to forgive BJP, which dumped NPF for NDPP immediately after poll dates were announced. He said, “NPF has kept its doors open for a tie-up with BJP.” Ironically, NPF has decided in principle to snap its ties with BJP in Manipur and pull out of the ruling alliance there. Zeliang also reminded all that despite its partnership with NDPP, BJP has not withdrawn its ministers from the Nagaland government.
For over a decade, NPF —first under Rio and then Zeliang as CM —has been at the helm in Nagaland alongwith BJP, and is an NDA ally at the Centre. A month ago, Rio surprised everyone by joining NDPP, a party he had floated recently.
After some dilly-dallying, BJP opted for NDPP as an ally in the assembly election on February 27.
BJP stands to benefit from the state’s tradition of paying more attention to individual candidates. If its national mascot is PM Modi, it seems ready to acknowledge Rio as one of Nagaland’s strongest leaders.
BJP projects Modi as the only person who can help resolve the decades-old Naga problem. State BJP president Visasolie Lhoungu says, “For the first time, the Church spoke against BJP, which proves we are no longer a non-entity but a force to reckon with.”
Explaining why it did not ally with NPF, Lhoungu says “BJP didn’t want to play second fiddle” and NPF wasn’t “ready for us to be an equal partner.”
Of the 60 assembly seats, BJP will contest on 20, NDPP in the remaining 40.
BJP first contested the assembly election here in 1987. Its maiden success came in 2003 when it won seven seats and joined the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN), comprising NPF and JD(U). DAN is currently Nagaland’s ruling alliance. “We are popular because of Modi’s image. People here don’t look at BJP on religious lines,” says Lhoungu. Modi is at the forefront of BJP’s campaign; the PM held a rally on February 22 in Tuensang.
Congress’s dwindling influence has also bolstered the saffrons — the Grand Old Party has been able to put up candidates only in 18 seats. To win over the electorate, 88% of whom are Christians, the Congress manifesto offered subsidised pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the state’s Christians. In tandem, BJP announced free trips to Jerusalem for 50 senior citizens every year if it comes to power.
NDPP back BJP’s pro-development stand with the slogan “Together we will bring change.” Rio, CM candidate of the BJP-NDPP alliance who has already won his seat unopposed, says, “BJP is not a party with a religious ideology.”
What NDPP and BJP may use as their trump card is the Centre’s involvement in finding a solution to the Nagalim question. “A solution to the Naga crisis can be found only at the highest level. Every Naga must understand that it can happen only under Modi’s leadership. The PM has taken the matter seriously,” says Lhoungu, adding, “If we come to power, we’ll help implement any Accord between the Nagas and the Centre.”
No matter what their leadership say about reviving the alliance with BJP, many in NPF feel that the statement of the Church on Hindutva forces may help their party in the long run. “The Church has made our job easier. We don’t have to educate the people about BJP,” says NPF secretary Sebastian Zumvu. Describing the Church’s stand as ‘unfortunate’, Lhoungu says, “We don’t want to revolt against the Church. We want to ask the Church why it was quiet all these years when BJP was growing by the day.”
Manipur: relations with
2017: 1st Nagaland CM to visit Imphal
Nagaland chief minister and Naga People's Front (NPF) supremo Shurhozelie Liezietsu paid a courtesy call to his Manipuri counterpart Nongthombam Biren Singh, and called for peaceful co-existence, putting behind the protracted strained relations between the two neighbouring states.This is the first time that a Nagaland chief minister has come to Imphal to discuss bilateral issues. Shurhozelie's NPF is a coalition partner in the Biren Singh-led government in Manipur.
Stating that peaceful co-existence among different ethnic groups would bring about development in the region, Liezietsu underscored the need to live together as good neighbours, according to tradition that has existed since time immemorial. He also said that the Meiteis should play a leading role in fostering peace and friendship among the different ethnic communities in the region.
“Now people have seen hope. We have seen some of our leaders in the past who had exploited the situation for their selfish ends and created bad feelings among different communities,“ said the Nagaland CM at a media conference, after meeting Biren Singh.
“But now with the change here in Manipur, we believe the era is already over, not only in Nagaland and Manipur, but the whole Northeast. We should have that understanding because our needs are almost the same in every way ,“ he said. “We must now realize that when we have peace we can bring about development, but when there is no peace, as we have seen in the past, there is no development,“ he added.
2018: India, Myanmar engineer NSCN(K) split
Armed with peace deals, India and Myanmar have engineered a surgical split in Myanmar-based NSCN (K) — one faction comprising Indian Nagas, the other with Myanmarese Nagas.
This is the third time India has pulled off such a split in radical outfits. The joint bloodless strike came just over a year after Khaplang’s death in June last 2017 and appointment of Indian-origin Khango Konyak as his successor.
India held back announcement of the peace solution with seven Naga groups — including NSCN (IM) — to give Myanmar time to play its part and step up military pressure on NSCN (K) in Sagaing region, say sources. It did so only after a declaration in Naypyidaw in July that the outfit will not be allowed to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) until it drops the demand for an independent Naga homeland.
“The NSCN(K)’s demand involved interests of two neighbouring countries. There could not have been peace agreements with both. Either they had to stick to Myanmar or Indian territory,” a source said, adding: “The day Konyak became chairman, New Delhi knew it had the best possible chance to convince an Indian-origin leader for peace talks.”
Last month, the Myanmar faction, led by Khaplang’s nephew Yung Aung, ‘impeached’ Konyak and sent him and his Indian team packing from the Taga base. This group gave its nod to the ceasefire agreement in Naypyidaw. The Konyak faction, on arriving in Nagaland, claimed they were the real deal and sent feelers on the peace process. The Aung faction claimed they were the real NSCN (K) and ‘sacked’ Konyak and his men.
National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM)
Separate Flag, Constitution For Nagaland?
The National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), after 37 years of armed struggle and 20 years of negotiations, has finally settled for `co-existing together with shared sovereignty' -a new experiment that a federal India with strong unitary features will embark on with the signing of a peace agreement soon.
In a statement, a spokesperson of NSCN (I-M) said, “As of now, the Nagas have agreed to co-exist together under shared sovereignty . The ongoing Indo-Naga political talks are progressing smoothly. The framework agreement, which will ensure peaceful coexistence between the Nagas and India with shared sovereignty , will surely usher in peace and a brighter political era for the Nagas.“ In August, 2015, the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre signed a `framework agreement' in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a final settlement. Though the exact meaning of shared sovereignty hasn't been divulged yet, sources hinted at the possibility of Nagas getting a separate constitution, flag, parliament and judiciary .
The spokesperson added that the government, in the `framework agreement' has recognized the Nagas' sove reignty and has also accepted that the Nagas are unique people with a separate entity and sovereign rights. “India has recognized the uniqueness of Naga history and culture. The Nagas were independent before the arrival of the British. Only a part of Nagalim was conquered by the British. There is no merger agreement between the Nagas and India. India invaded Nagalim and set up arbitrary boundaries “ the spokesperson further said.
33% reservation for women in urban local bodies (ULBs)
Major agitation in 2017
Nagaland was on the boil ever since the T R Zeliang government decided to implement 33% reservation for women in urban local bodies (ULBs). Elections to 10 town councils, which were held on Wednesday 1 Feb 2017 despite opposition from all 15 Naga tribes, were 2 days later declared null and void in view of the prevailing situation.
On Thursday 2 Feb night, protesters torched buildings housing at least 20 government offices and the Kohima Press Club. The offices of the Kohima district collector and Nagaland commissioner were also stoned. The ruling Naga People's Front (NPF) office was also reportedly vandali sed and set on fire.
Tension prevailed in Kohima on Friday 3 Feb, a day after protesters set ablaze many government buildings and vehicles to oppose quota for women in the ULB polls. Bodies of two agitators who were killed in Dimapur police firing were laid to rest as thousands of mourners gathered in the state capital to pay their last respects.
An indefinite bandh called by the Angami Youth Organisation (AYO) was enforced by it in Kohima and Dimapur.
Kohima deputy commissioner and district magistrate Rajesh Soudararajan imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in four areas, including the Raj Bhavan, following the violence.
Nagaland governor P B Acharya arrived at Raj Bhavan from Itanagar on Friday 3 Feb and met members of the newly formed Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC), which comprised representatives of all apex Naga tribes.NTAC reiterated its demands before the governor, which include resignation of the CM and his cabinet and suspen sion of police personnel involved in the firing on Tuesday and Wednesday . NTAC convener K T Velie said the governor promised he would take action as per the Constitution.
Mobile data, SMS and internet services were snapped across Nagaland for at least five days. The state government had cut off these services on Monday 20 Jan to avoid spreading of rumours in view of the protests.
2018: Naga women fail to break 54-yr jinx
Nagaland’s 54-year wait for a woman MLA continues despite seeing the largest number of women candidates — that too just five — in the fray. NDPP’s Awan Konyak briefly looked like she would make history as she took the lead in Aboi. But the 39-yearold daughter of a former state minister lost by 905 votes. The state, which has more women voters than male electors, has never had a woman MLA and just one woman MP — Rano M Shaiza in 1977.
Naga Power Play
Shurhozelie Neiphiu Rio, former Nagaland chief minister and sole Lok Sabha member from the Naga People's Front (NPF), had a dream. He wanted to be CM again.
He had already served three consecutive terms, quitting in 2014 because he thought he had a shot at becoming a cabinet minister. At the time, NPF leader T.R. Zeliang had eagerly stepped in to fill the vacated post. But though Rio was elected to Parliament, he was overlooked for a cabinet post.
With Zeliang forced to resign in February this year-after Nagaland was riven by protests against his decision to implement 33 per cent reservations for women in civic elections-Rio became the obvious favourite.
But in a byzantine turn of events, NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu was sworn in as Nagaland's 11th chief minister on February 22 instead, highlighting the BJP's role as kingmaker in the state.
The story goes back to at least last year. In May 2016, Rio was suspended from the NPF for 'anti-party activities'; specifically, scheming to become chief minister again, at the expense of Zeliang.
That was a significant setback, but when the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) and Joint Coordination Committee shut down the entire state before the February 1 urban local bodies polls, Rio knew he had his chance. The NTAC announced that it would not relent until Zeliang stepped down; it was probably not a coincidence that a key member of the group was closely associated with Rio.
That was when the BJP intervened. Though it has only four legislators in the opposition-less Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) coalition government-the NPF is the major constituent with 48 legislators-it wields considerable influence.
On February 17, under pressure from NTAC, 39 NPF MLAs had asked Zeliang to step down. He flew to Delhi and had a closed-door meeting with BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav. The BJP had to be careful not to alienate Rio given his rapport with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) leaders.
And so, Madhav arranged a meeting between Rio and Zeliang, and a deal was struck, in which Zeliang would become finance minister in a new Rio government.
However, the deal fell through. The NSCN (I-M)'s economic blockade of Manipur had become an insupportable problem for the BJP's brass, hurting the party's chances in state elections beginning March 4.
And in the end, it was Rio's earlier suspension that settled matters. Enter Liezietsu, with a rather unceremonious exit for Rio.
Zeliang challenges Liezietsu
Patch Up With Rebels, Acharya Tells CM The Kohima bench of the Gauhati high court spelt brief relief for Nagaland chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu, staying till Monday governor P B Acharya's directive that a floor test be held on or before Saturday to prove the CM's majority. The matter will come up for hearing on Monday.
Acharya had asked Leizeitsu to prove his majority after his predecessor T R Zeliang staked claim to form the government, claiming the support of 33 NPF MLAs and seven Independents (see graphic).
In his petition before the court, Liezietsu said the decision of the governor was “ex-facie unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary and violative of the... basic features of the Constitution“.
Liezeitsu pointed out that the process of byelection -through which he is seeking election -is already under way , and that it was “imperative and incumbent upon the governor to call upon the petitioner to prove their majority on the floor of the House only pursuant to the bypoll wherein the petitioner is a candidate“. The bypoll is scheduled for July 29. Meanwhile, Acharya asked Leizeitsu to reconcile with dissident Naga People's Front (NPF) legislators, the CM's office said.
The CM has already set the ball rolling for the reconciliation process by revoking the suspension of 10 MLAs, including Zeliang, and the state's lone Lok Sabha member Neiphiu Rio. “The party decided that all of them are NPF members and hence their suspension should be withdrawn. This is a crisis in the family ... NPF... and not in the alliance where BJP is our partner,“ he told TOI on Fri day morning. He added that he was ready to step down if the governor asked him to.“The governor has absolute powers to sack my government, but I believe he will do justice. If the governor wants me to step down, I will listen to him. But people are happy with my governance,“ Liezietsu said.
The rebellion in NPF has reduced Liezietsu's government to a minority, and he had recently accused ally BJP of engineering the crisis to grab power in the state like “they did in Arunachal last year“.
2017, July: Zeliang becomes CM but expelled by NPF
On a day of fastmoving political developments, T R Zeliang was on Wednesday sworn in as the new chief minister of Nagaland replacing Shurhozelie Liezietsu, who was sacked by Governor P B Acharya. But within hours, the Naga People's Front (NPF) expelled Zeliang for six years for “anti-party activities“, indicating the political turmoil was far from over.
“He was adamant and has already planned to dismantle the NPF party ,“ NPF working presidents Huska Yepthomi and Apong Pongener said.They said the decision was taken to “keep peace in the party“. Zeliang, however, was unfazed saying he would continue to remain the NPF leader in the House. “The expulsion from the party does not affect the membership inside the House,“ he said.
Zeliang was appointed shortly after embattled Liezietsu and his supporters failed to turn up in the assembly to face the floor test following which the house was adjourned sine die.
Zeliang was administered oath of office and secrecy by the governor at a function at Durbar Hall in Raj Bhavan in the presence of Speaker Imtiwapang Aier, 35 NPF MLAs, seven Independents, four BJP MLAs and state BJP president Visasolie Lhoungu. In his communique to Liezietsu sacking him, Acharya took strong exception to the latter not attending the session.
2017: NPF, BJP, allies since 1997, part ways
The youth wing of the Nagaland People's Front (NPF) organised a `beef feast' on Friday in front of the party headquarters to celebrate the end of its ties with the BJP. The two parties, allies since 1997, parted ways on July 18 after governor PB Acharya dismissed the government led by Shurhozelie Liezietsu. Angry at Acharya's alleged `role' in precipitating the crisis, the organisers also invited him.
Speaking to the media, NPF working president Huska Yepthomi said the feast had been organised to provoke BJP that had made its strictures against the slaughter of cows quite clear. He said Nagas ate beef and would continue to do so.
NPF youth president Vihoshe Sumi said three cows donated by a party member were slaughtered for the `feast'.
NIA: Zeliang diverted govt funds to NSCN(K)
Former Nagaland CM T R Zeliang, who lost his seat to a BJP-NDDP coalition, could be in trouble as National Investigation Agency claims to have found evidence of his involvement in the funding of Naga insurgent groups from the state exchequer.
The agency has summoned Zeliang and asked him to appear for questioning at its headquarters on Tuesday. It wants to interrogate Zeliang about his alleged role in tax collection and extortion from state government departments by Naga insurgent groups, particularly National Socialist Council of Nagaland - NSCN (Khaplang).
NIA asked Zeliang to come along with documents relevant to the payments received from government departments. The former CM, has expressed his inability to come for questioning and has asked for another date as he is attending the assembly from March 13 to 26. Sources said Zeliang’s staff members have recorded their statements under Section 164 CrPC indicting him in the alleged ‘tax collection’. It is alleged NSCN(K) was taking 24% out of the government employees’ salaries and funds for development works.
Naga pact even without NSCN(I-M)?
For Peace Deal, Other Groups Willing To Go Soft On Separate Flag & Statute
The Centre is most likely to go ahead with the signing of a peace accord “with or without NSCN(IM)” on October 31 to end the decades-old Naga crisis, a top Naga leader has said.
NSCN(I-M), the first Naga organisation to initiate the peace negotiations with New Delhi in 1997, continues to be a stumbling block as it has refused to give up its demands for a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas, both of which the Centre has turned down. However, seven Naga organisations opposed to NSCN(I-M), together called Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), have expressed their willingness to negotiate on the two demands.
NSCN(I-M) has stuck to its stand even after suffering a major jolt on Friday as 17 of its members switched over to NNPG. In a statement released on Saturday, NSCN(IM) said that the Naga civil society has pointed out to the Centre’s dialogue coordinator RN Ravi that “honourable and acceptable solution means honouring Naga flag and constitution” signalling that it will not compromise with its demands.
“The way they (civil society) made their position clear through the media is highly valued and appreciated. When the Government of India’s interlocutor Shri RN Ravi went too far enough to underestimate the Nagas in taking care of our legitimate historical and political rights, Naga civil society groups stood up boldly to prove him wrong and to show him to mind his language of divisive tone,” the statement said. This is the second erosion that NSCN(I-M) suffered in the past two months. Last month, 10 members in Yimchungru region had joined the NNPG.
Alezo Venuh, who coordinates with the Centre on behalf of the NNPG, told TOI, “The Government of India is very firm on wrapping up the negotiations. There is no question of whether it is NSCN-IM or NNPGs. Whichever party is ready, the government will sign the agreement with it.”
Venuh made it clear that NNPGs and the Centre have cleared all obstacles to sign a peace deal. “We (NNPGs) have resolved all issues, and the Government of India has decided to conclude the talks on October 31. We are prepared for it.”
He added, “It (signing of the deal) may happen any time, any moment. We are waiting for the NSCN-IM leadership to take a decision because there will be just one agreement and the government wants all the parties to be on board.”
On the issues of a separate flag and constitution, Venuh said, “We (NNPGs) have not given up the demands for a separate flag or constitution. But these things are not possible at this point of time.” He added, “We can’t just keep on talking or pressing for something which is not relevant at this point of time. There are other issues that will protect the identity of the Naga people.”
Venuh said, “We are doing everything in the proper way-…it is an honourable negotiation. We have worked out everything that is best for the Naga people and that will not go against the interests of India.” Asked if such a peace deal justifies the nearly 70 years of armed struggle in Nagaland, he said, “This is the best we can achieve at this point of time and the Naga people have endorsed it.”
Nov: Naga issue ‘resolved on Centre’s terms’
The 22-yearlong dialogue between the NSCN(I-M) and the Centre finally concluded on Thursday with the Centre “resolving” the last three contentious issues — separate flag, separate constitution and territorial integration of Naga-inhabited areas.
These demands “have been closed” with mutual agreement, a source associated with the talks said, adding that “there were several loose ends which were tied up on Thursday”. While the Centre had earlier rejected demands for a separate flag and constitution, NSCN(IM) had refused to budge.
The sources said that there would be “no separate flag for the state of Nagaland, but individuals or groups would be free to use a Naga flag for non-government purposes, just as political parties or literary organisations use theirs”. The issue of a separate constitution “would be resolved by a democratic and political process. So, it has also been settled,” the source said.
On the rebel outfit’s demand for integration of all Naga-inhabited areas, it was decided that NSCN(I-M) would have to persuade Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam to give up parts of their territories for creation of a ‘Greater Nagalim’. “The central government is not in a position to ask a state to give away parts of its territory. The ball is in NSCN(I-M)’s court... This issue has been settled,” the source said.
Naga outfits will have to surrender their arms now.
Indpaedia’s several pages about Nagaland include:
Nagaland: Political history