India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on March 25 that no decision has been made in regards to the creation of a greater Nagaland in northeastern India. This contradicted an earlier claim made by a Naga leader, causing an outcry nationwide.
The Nagas are a group of tribal people who live in Myanmar and the states of Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland in Northeast India. They number around two million and have a long history of conflict with the Indian government.
In August 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a peace agreement with one faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NCSN-IM), a separatist group fighting for an independent nation for Nagas. Modi did not make the contents of the agreement immediately available but said that he wanted to develop the area. Prior to the agreement, the violence resulted in 170 deaths in 2015 and 465 the year before.
Secretary General of the NCSN-IM Thuingaleng Muivah said on March 23 that the agreement signed two years ago recognized the integration of Naga tribal land. His claims led to protests in the state of Assam and impacted the elections in Manipur, a state which is comprised of 80 percent tribal communities. However, officials have since disavowed his claim.
The Times of India reported the MHA as saying, “Some media reports have appeared recently to the effect that the Government of India has agreed to carve out a larger Nagaland State by taking away the territories of the states contiguous to Nagaland. Such reports are erroneous. It is clarified that there is no such agreement or decision of the Government of India.”
The history of the Naga insurgency can be traced to British colonialism in India, with the annexation of Assam in 1826 and Naga Hills in 1881. Nagas formed the Naga Club in 1918 and sent a memorandum in 1929 to the British Simon Commission, a group seeking ways to implement constitutional reform in India, asking to be “left alone.”
In 1946, Naga leader Angami Zapu Phizo formed the Naga National Council (NNC), which declared Naga independence in August 1947. Later, in 1952, Phizo created the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and Naga Federal Army (NFA), which were defeated by the Indian army.
In 1958, the Indian government enacted the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to counter the Nagas. The act allowed the Indian army and police to “shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property that is ‘likely’ to be used by insurgents in areas declared as ‘disturbed’ by the home ministry.” Those supporting AFSPA, such as the Indian Army, suggest that its removal will cause demoralization, while critics argue that the AFSPA is undemocratic and has increased violence.
In November 1975, the Indian government and the NNC signed the Shillong Accords, giving up arms. However, Naga leaders Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu, and S.S. Khaplang refused to accept the Accords and formed the NCSN in 1980. In 1988, the NCSN split into the NCSN-IM and NCSN-K.
The NCSN-IM desires the creation of the “Greater Nagalim,” an area comprised of territory in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Myanmar. However, the group has been hesitant about the claims because they fear a reduction in territory. The future of the Naga integration is thus rendered more unlikely by this mandate.