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Expanding the Middle Space in the Naga Peace Process

It is the new middle class in Naga society that is steadily reshaping the vision of an independent Naga nation that has been rooted in its tribal institutions. Many of the new ideas and initiatives for resolving the old problems of unity and integration are coming from the professional "middle class" women and men. Fourteen years of ceasefire have seen the expansion of a "non-partisan" middle space, the space of Naga social organisations, which holds the promise of nudging the political groups towards reconciliation and accountability.


Expanding the Middle Space in the Naga Peace Process

Rita Manchanda, Tapan Bose

It is the new middle class in Naga society that is steadily reshaping the vision of an independent Naga nation that has been rooted in its tribal institutions. Many of the new ideas and initiatives for resolving the old problems of unity and integration are coming from the professional “middle class” women and men. Fourteen years of ceasefire have seen the expansion of a “non-partisan” middle space, the space of Naga social organisations, which holds the promise of nudging the political groups towards reconciliation and accountability.

A version of this paper was presented at the South Asia Forum for Human Rights Regional Conference on “Human Rights Audits of ‘Partition’-based Peace Accords” in Kathmandu, July 2011. The authors are indebted to valuable comments of Bharat Bhushan, H K K Suan, Sajal Nag and Bani Gill.

Rita Manchanda ( and Tapan Bose are with the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Kathmandu.

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n the contested space of the Naga nationalist movement, “Republic Day” (21 March) dawned on the blue Naga flag being unfurled at three separate camps – one, the makeshift headquarters of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah)’s [NSCN (I-M)] Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland (GPRN) at Camp Hebron, two, the S S Khaplang NSCN’s GPRN at Camp Khehoi, and three, the legendary Phizo Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) at Chedema Peace Camp. All three political organisations claim the mantle of the sixdecade long struggle of Naga self-determination. Their various ceasefire agreements1 with the Indian government have made possible their overground and overlapping presence. But it has not softened the sharpness of their mutual recriminations or allegations of betrayal, as they lashed out at each other in their official Flag Raising Day addresses.2 Perhaps the February 2011 clash between the I-M and K cadres in the eastern Naga areas3 produced a renewed shrillness. In any case it provided yet another alibi to postpone the long awaited meeting of the top leaders of the groups. It was a reminder of how tortuous and long is the path to Naga reconciliation and how vital is unity to resolving the Naga imbroglio. The Naga conflict is the oldest of the selfdetermination struggles, and the first major challenge to the Indian state’s integrationist project.

On the sidelines, the duly elected Government of Nagaland of the “pro-peace” Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, benignly watched (and the myriad intelligence agencies not so benignly) the cavalcade of cars and motorbikes drive to the camps to be part of the event(s). Expectedly there were the representatives of the tribal public organisations, the HoHos, the Dobashis and Gaoburas, the Naga Student Federations (NSF), the tribal women groups, the churches and the many other traditional and more modern social associations that make up the heterogeneous space of Naga “civil society”.4 But in the 14th year of the long ceasefire, these organisations now seemed confident and credible enough to shake off the fetters of suspicion and assert their non- partisanship. Their representatives went to all the camps.

In the early years of the ceasefire it was not surprising for even a sensitive official like general K V Kulkarni, then convenor of the Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism to label organisations like the Naga HoHo, United Naga Council (UNC), Naga Mothers, NSF, Naga Women’s Union Manipur (NWUM) and Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) as “proxies” of the underground groups.5 Moreover, the factional wars had so fiercely divided Naga society that there seemed no possibility of engaging in a non-partisan manner. Even the NMA was accused of being too close to the I-M.

Now 14 years on, was the sharp polarisation emanating from a conflict divide giving way to an expanding non-partisan and a nonsectarian middle space? Evidently, the Naga HoHo, the apex body of the Naga tribal organisations, now felt emboldened to publicly upbraid the “national workers” (the UGs) for rampant extortion and imposing unbearable taxes on old and emerging Naga entrepreneurs.6 In our round table meetings across the Naga Hills with repre sentatives of groups and individuals that people the Naga civil society space, what was striking was the frankness with which disappointment and disillusionment with the “national workers” of all the militant groups was voiced. Some of the participants also accused the “national workers” of corruption and extortion.

Had “peace” softened and corrupted the “national workers”? Had the long ceasefire isolated the NSCN (I-M) leadership from their source of strength, the armed cadres? Over 70 rounds of peace talks on the Naga political road map to peace remains stuck at “do not pass go”. At the centre is the sovereignty question. It is symbolically linked with the visionary goal of the integration of the divided Naga habitat. Basically, the guns are in the hands of the southern Nagas of Manipur, T Muivah included. Sovereignty is at the root of the accusations of betrayal, the rationale for Nagas killing Nagas and for the armed struggle. Once with bravado Phizo, the father of the Naga nation, asserted – “nothing short of sovereignty”. Today, cutting across partisan lines, the challenge is how to enable the top leaders to evolve a common position, and to insulate that compromise from rejection as a “sell out”, resulting in renewed conflict. Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine that a common position across factional lines was possible. Today, many influential Nagas acknowledge T Muivah as “best able to get a deal from the Indian government, if only there could be unity”.

In the vacuum, the Indian and Nagaland state governments have grown stronger. Of course, the Naga people continue as before to pay taxes to the “national” government(s) and not the regime in Kohima. But 50 years of the Nagaland state has produced a crowd of stakeholders in the system – involved in electoral politics, the bureaucracy, suppliers and contractors integrated with state and central economy and the burgeoning “education industry”. The mystique and awe of a distant fighting force sacrificing all for a sovereign, integrated “Nagalim”, is giving way to the banal reality of elections determining politics. In that game the NSCN has to demonstrate that it can transform itself into a democratic political organisation.

As the official initiators of the peace process might have intended, the long ceasefire is being normalised as “peace”. A generation has grown up that has not bled under the boot of India’s military suppression. It is open to the rhetoric of appeasement and development. But a less examined consequence of the ceasefire is the growth of a social grouping that can be characterised as the “new middle class”. We argue that this small but powerful grouping is reshaping and expanding the Naga public sphere. Many of the new ideas and new initiatives for resolving the old problems that have gridlocked the Naga imbroglio, are associated with this group of relatively youthful, urban, educated professional women and men, e g, Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) and the “Alternative Arrangement”.

The essay is based on a series of round table meetings held with Naga civil society groups in Dimapur, Kohima, Senapati and Ukhrul in March 2011. It focuses on 14 years of the Indo-Naga ceasefire from the subjectivity of the Naga people’s experience. It explores the shifting dynamics of the three pillars that have defined the demands of the Naga nationalist movement – “integration”, “unity” and “sovereignty”. It examines the opportunities for a just and equitable political solution offered by the 1997 ceasefire in the long genealogy of Naga peace disaccords. It audits the inclusiveness of the ceasefire dividends and the existing levels of support for the national movement. In particular, it probes the scope of the expanding middle space in the erstwhile polarised tribal politics of the Naga struggle, and its impact on the Naga nationalist movement which is rooted in traditional tribal institutions.

1 State’s Peacemaking Démarche: 1997 Ceasefire

Against the backdrop of our rights-based audit of the Naga accord is South Asia Forum for Human Right’s (SAFHR) series of peace audits which have sought to empirically establish the proposition that the State’s praxis of peacemaking empowers it rather than the struggling peoples; that these are status quo accords, bolstering the state’s integrationist project; they co-opt the counter elite as new rulers presiding over special autonomies but do little to address the political questions that could deepen democracy and justice. In such asymmetric peace processes it is the state that chooses when and with whom to talk in these asymmetric peace processes. In the case of the 1997 Government of India (GOI)-Naga Ceasefire Agreement, the questions that arise are the following: Why after 25 years7 did the Indian state choose to conclude a ceasefire agreement after the collapse of the 1964-72 ceasefire? Why choose only the NSCN I-M when there were huge factional issues and the I-M’s writ did not run beyond their area of control? Moreover, post-ceasefire the GOI has shown little interest in curbing inter-factional violence or bringing the rivals, the NSCN (Khaplang) to the table.

Several scholars8 in explaining the timing of the government’s decision have highlighted that the 1990s saw a rush of prairie fires of insurgencies all across the north-east and the hegemony of the NSCN (I-M) group in assisting these armed groups. Army chief general Shanker Roy Chowdhury taking stock of the security challenge in the north-east in 1995 hinted at the necessity of large-scale army deployment, but emphasised that the military solution could only provide temporary relief, political dialogue with the insurgents was necessary for a permanent solution.9 The army was bruising under bitter criticism for gross violations of the human rights of civilians in the Mokokchung incident in December 1994. Adding to Indian sensitivities was the international glare on an army fighting its own people especially following the admission of the NSCN to Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organisations (UNPO) and participation of Naga orginations in the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples.

M Vero, a former Naga Member of Parliament and president of the Naga HoHo voiced the popular understanding of the logic driving the political démarche. “A strong Nagaland would be an ally in containing separatist unrest in the region as all know the Naga movement is the mother of all insurgencies in the

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north-east. If the Naga problem is resolved all other problems in the region too will subside”.10 Negotiations were further buoyed by a change in the government in Delhi. After five years of preagreement talks with successive Indian prime ministers belonging to different parties, NSCN (I-M) and GOI in July 1997 agreed to a ceasefire agreement and in 2001 peace talks based on a recognition of the “unique history” of the Naga peoples, of talks without preconditions, at the highest level and in a third country. In the long genealogy of Naga accords – 1947, 1960, 1975 and now 1997 – after 14 years does the ceasefire moment promise a final resolution of the Naga imbroglio, or more disaccords?

2 Speaking for All Nagas: Reconciliation and Unity

Routinely, the State when challenged by competing national movements questions their legitimacy and whether there is a sole spokesperson11 who can deliver an agreement. The unity issue has wracked the Naga national movement and been an active presence in the troubled history of north-east accords. The 1947 Hydari Agreement was singular in that it accepted the complete authority of the Naga National Council (NNC) over the Naga territory and its resources. That representative consensus and territorial reach was foundationally undermined by the 1960 accord. Here a state enabled so-called “self-constituted group” opposed to the armed struggle, the Naga People’s Convention (NPC),12 set up a liaison group to mediate between the two warring parties, and ended up concluding the 16-Point Agreement. It swapped independence for statehood within the Indian union. Phizo denounced the NPC as “stooges of the Indian government” and the accord as a “sell-out”. The 1960 agreement territorially and ideologically divided the Nagas. As “General” Thinoselle Keyho, a veteran NNC leader, remarked, “some have become part of the Indian political machinery within its constitutional framework. Others continue to insist on their independence and assert themselves as not being Indian”.13

Historian Sanjay Singh surveying the Naga accords – the 1947 Hydari Agreement, 1960 agreement and the 1975 Shillong Agreement – positions them as instances of “domination through negotiation”.14 They divided the Naga polity, rewarding amicable politicians, ruthlessly suppressing opponents, and fragmenting the Naga inhabited areas into four state territories. The accord succeeded in empowering a group in an autonomous arrangement within the Indian union, and legitimised the State’s claim that the persisting Naga movement is a law and order problem.

With the 1975 accord the legitimacy base of the signatories got further whittled to a “section” of the UGs. They surrendered, accepting the Indian constitution but with no gains, only a vague iteration, to “formulate other issues for a future settlement”. The NSCN emerged out of the ruins of the Shillong Accord. Phizo’s lieutenants, Isak Swu, S Khaplang and T Muivah, denounced the accord. In a way, history has come full circle, with the NSCN (I-M) entering into political talks with the GOI in 1997. Given the asymmetry of power, it is now entrapped in a similar predicament with rivals charging them of surrendering sovereignty and integration for the “reward” of the state. Further, NSCN (I-M) is dogged by the contention of not speaking for all the Nagas. A Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) pre-poll survey (2008) showed that 54% of the respondents did not agree

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that I-M spoke for all Nagas. SAFHR’s 2011 survey showed that while 19% felt that the 1997 accord process included all stakeholders, 35% said “No”.15

Speaking at the GPRN’s Republic Day in March 2011, the NSCN (K)’s “Prime Minister” Kitovi reminded the assembly, “The talks are between the NSCN and the GOI and not between Nagaland and GOI”.16 He reiterated that the Khaplang17 faction would not sit with the “I-M gang”. On its part the I-M leadership arrogantly asserts its claim to be the “sole spokesperson” of the Naga people. “When the time for talks came, the centre realised that the real force is the NSCN (I-M). So they approached us for negotiations. We did not approach them,” T Muivah said to Tehelka magazine. “We have always fought for the Naga cause, while they (the other groups) have been working with the Indian government. If they join in the talks, do you think a solution would emerge?”.18 The armed groups accuse each other of being stooges of the Indian agencies. There is a long history of the Indian agencies pitting the armed groups against each other. The Naga nationalist leadership are well aware that the Indian state “by keeping the internal conflict festering, they can avoid dealing with the core issues of sovereignty and Nagalim”.19

The contestation over unity (reconciliation) first and political talks second, has split Naga society and been a major obstacle in the road map to peace. At the time of the ceasefire agreement, the NSCN (I-M) was the dominant nationalist group but the NNC and the Kaphlang group had wide ranging support amongst the overground and the underground, and the NSCN (K) controlled swathes of territory. It is here that the myriad associations that make up the civil society space played a crucial role in fostering reconciliation among the armed groups and building a societywide consensus in support of the NSCN (I-M)-led peace negotiations. With 95% of Nagas being Christian, the churches are influential. Prior to the signing of the Indo-Naga Agreement, in July 1997 the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America convened a meeting in Atlanta of the Nagas to foster unity. Those efforts continue. In July 2011, Baptist World Alliance at its general council meeting affirmed support to the FNR-led process.

The Naga civil society associations have served as a vital barometer of the public mood, providing NSCN leaders, isolated by long years in the jungle, an understanding of the direction and scope of what can be negotiated without being denounced as a sellout. At every misstep in the ceasefire process, the civil society associations intervened to sustain the peace process – legitimising the NSCN’s authority to talk peace, protesting ceasefire violations, building reconciliation and unifying the factions, etc.20 Ironically, the Congress stalwart Jamir’s displacement from power and the “pro-peace” Rio-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government has produced a “taming” of civil society’s oppositional vigour, co-opting their activism into social delivery channels. The state is no longer seen as the object of political contestation but as the provider of social goods.

Forum for Naga Reconciliation

After a relative lull, the 2007-08 inter-factional violence across the Naga areas of the north-east surged with fratricidal killings. According to south Asia terrorism portal figures, in 2007 of the 92 registered fatalities of the Naga armed conflict, 82 were insurgents; in 2008 out of 145 fatalities, 101 were insurgents.21 In this, renewed cycle of instability, the NSCN got further splintered. The offshoot was the short-lived Unification group. The common vision of the Naga nation was in danger of being fractured by “re-tribalism”, claimed influential commentators like Subir Bhaumik.22 Minority tribes in Nagaland were threatened with “quit” and boycott notices, particularly Muivah’s tribe, the Tanghkuls. Concerned at the dangerous drift and spurt in factional violence, a panoply of Naga social organisations and the churches met at a Naga Peace Convention in Dimapur in February 2008 and formed the FNR.23 FNR appealed to the Naga political organisation in a series of Chengmai summits to come together based on the “historical and political rights of the Nagas”.

At the first meeting in Chengmai, representatives from NSCN (I-M) and NNC came, but Khaplang and Unification groups stayed away. Over the course of the FNR-facilitated meetings, a group’s representative might stay away but public pressure in support of FNR would see them back at the next summit. Complicating the process was the backdrop of inter-factional clashes. Within days of the Chengmai summit in May, 12 cadres of the Kaphlang group were killed. It led to the urgent convening of Chengmai II in June. This time representatives of all three groups were there. The mood was more promising. However, reports of the “K” camp in Vihokhu being overrun, nearly queered the pitch, despite the intervention of I-M’s General Atem. Such discordances have regularly disrupted the reconciliation tract. Apparently, middle rung leaders of the armed wings are proving difficult to hold back. They are most threatened by the success of the peace process as it would put an end to their lucrative “fundraising”. Also with the Assam Rifles held at bay by the ceasefire, there is a jockeying for domination in the Naga inhabited areas of Arunchal Pradesh. Between the NSCN leaders there are misunderstandings over the value of strategic alliances with a clutch of north-east armed groups – United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Manipur. Many have found refuge in Khaplang’s camp in Myanmar’s Saiging border province.

The Chengmai summit III in August 2008 promised to break the logjam, with the representatives of all three Naga political organisations adopting the Covenant of Common Hope. The summit is remembered for launching the unique “Reconciliation Soccer” matches that saw the team of the political groups/ “factions” pitted against the civil society team. “Just their coming together, mingling together and shaking hands of people who they have not seen each in years, is itself progress”, said Rev Wati Aier, FNR convenor and ace soccer player.24 To sustain the momentum in Dimapur 32 civil society organisations at the Sumi Baptist church affirmed support for the Covenant. In a parallel process, NSF initiated a peace mission projecting “reconciliation has no tribalism”. Such initiatives had the potential of horizontally expanding the reconciliation process beyond the top leadership. But the NSCN leadership, habituated to the UG culture of the closed circle of confidants, often along tribal lines, has been wary of democratic engagement.25 The result is that FNR remains a “top-down” process.

FNR’s lasting contribution is its facilitation of a Joint Working Group (JWG) of the three political groups and their pledge to forswear all forms of offensive activities. The JWG, somewhat disappointingly, over these two years has not grown beyond a ceasefire monitoring mechanism to becoming an empowered decision-making body. It looks to the top leaders to politically untangle the disunity gridlock. For months now, a “highest level meeting” of the top leadership has been planned and repeatedly scuttled. Khaplang has proffered one excuse after another. Kaphlang in his camp on the Myanmar border is busy negotiating the junta’s new power arrangements to set up the contentious Naga self-governing administrative unit. His unwillingness or inability to leave Myanmar has produced a worrying stalemate. However, the internal coup ousting Khaplang from the NSCN (K) top leadership in June 2011, and the specific mention in the list of grievances, of Khaplang’s recalcitrance in participating in the reconciliation process, could presage a positive shift.

It is argued that the emergence of the FNR, its survival and relative credibility, demonstrates the steady expansion of a middle non-partisan space in the post-conflict Naga civil society sphere. In our conversations in Dimapur, the locus of the FNR initiative, repeatedly we heard, “earlier, you would have been branded as either pro-I-M or K”. You could not be bi-partisan. This is what scuttled the “Naga National Reconciliation Move” in 2001. The Naga HoHo ensured 10,000 attended its launch, transcending ideologies and affiliations.26 But in the then highly polarised space of Naga society “unity” moves were perceived as in competition even in opposition to the political dialogue and inevitably framed along factional lines, i e, unity first (“K” and NNC group) and political talks (I-M group). Naga HoHo announced plans to take the reconciliation process to every tribe and every village. The NSCN was suspicious of an initiative it could not control. Naga HoHo, president M Vero, under pressure to conform, withdrew. Ten years later, an emboldened FNR functions in a broader non-partisan space. Significantly, the convenor of FNR is Rev Wati Aier, who was part of the steering committee of the earlier reconciliation move.

The Binaries and the Middle Space

A caveat should be added. This expanding middle space – between the factions, between the state and the armed political groups, and between Naga society and the NSCN – is contingent on the ceasefire holding. As a perceptive observer of Naga affairs cautioned, the degree of freedom of those occupying the middle space is limited by the underground (and the state). Analogously, we argue that the degree of freedom of the UGs (and the state) is limited by the power of “civil society” to provide the legitimacy necessary in an asymmetric political process. Both the state and the “rebel” group compete to control that middle space, especially as it expands in the time of ceasefire. However, the armed insurgents will not take instructions from the Naga social associations but they have demonstrated they will heed suggestions from noncompeting, non-confrontational organisations. Similarly, the Nagaland state has demonstrated its power to co-opt and “tame” the “civil society”. Also this is a highly heterogeneous middle space. The many civic associations there may represent a constituency

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for “peace”, but the meaning of that “peace” is different for the tribal authorities, the students, women’s groups, the churches, the human rights organisations, the state’s bureaucrats and contractors.

Whether it is the credibility of the FNR process or the public demand for such a forum to exist, the three group leaders remain engaged in the FNR process. But the formidable difficulties persisting in nudging the Naga political groups towards unity reveal the limits of the Naga social associations in leveraging the unity question, let alone influencing the political agenda of the armed groups. So Naga HoHo will take courage and upbraid the Naga “national workers” against flagrant practices of taxation/“extortion”. A cartoon in The Morung Express captures the ambiguity of the situation. Naga HoHo members in disguise confront the armed cadres and diffidently say, “F.....first of all must p...p... prove that you are worthy of....”.27 A greater politicisation of the reconciliation process with unity being pitted against talks could see déjà vu, i e, retreat a la the 2001 reconciliation move.

Notwithstanding these reservations, in Dimapur, Nagaland state’s commercial centre and the locus of the FNR initiative, our interlocutors, many of whom were in the inner “civil society” circle of the FNR process remained optimistic. They persuasively argued that the once polarising binary of “unity” or “talks” first was a thing of the past. Now, there was a consensus, the reconciliation process and political talks must go in tandem. But in Kohima, the state capital, we heard more discordant and plural notes – “the peace process had become a hostage to the reconciliation process”. Mocking the reconciliation dividend, a Naga educationist said, “it means that all the groups can roam at will in each other’s domains and impose ‘taxes’ on the civilian population”. Popular disaffection with the reconciliation process is reflected in a recent internet survey conducted by The Morung Express. Asked “Are Nagas really serious and sincere about reconciliation?”, 30% said yes, 51% said no and 19% yes and no.28 There was no question though that the Nagas recognised the importance of “unity”. On the need to involve all stakeholders, the more comprehensive CSDS 2008 survey showed more than half said that GOI should holds talks with I-M, K and NNC.

What was significant was that the critical voices were coming from the very organisations that had founded FNR – Naga HoHo, UNC, the church, NSF, NMA, NWUM and NPMHR. The FNR was accused of placing reconciliation first and the political solution, second. The Naga HoHo felt it necessary to emphasise that solution and reconciliation should be simultaneous processes. FNR was accused of autonomy of action, of becoming bigger than the parent bodies. “The organisations that had founded it were not included in the planning and road map of FNR activities. We’ve been reduced to a symbolic presence,” some complained.

Can we read a subtext in this “turf war”? Is it a show of tension between recognised “elders” rooted in the traditional authority structures of Naga tribal society and the urban, well educated professionals, women and men, who are associated with such initiatives as FNR and the Committee for Alternative Arrangement (CAA) of the Naga Hills, Manipur? Are these new ideas and approaches to persisting old political demands putting pressures on the traditional leadership? Many of the new imaginative initiatives come from younger civil society activists, women and men, but it

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is the tribal organisation that has to vote on it. The others, especially the women, have no voice in those traditional policymaking structures. Already NPMHR has a woman president, Gina Shankham. NMA’s Kheslie Chisi and Naga Women’s Union (NWU) Grace Shastung are part of the FNR circle of nominees. The official composition of the CAA has no women, but the above NWU and NPMHR women are a recognised part of the circle of influence in the CAA.

The “middle class”29 markers of this new activist circle of women and men is striking. In terms of their urban location, education, credentials, money, job opportunities they have accrued the benefits of the Indian state structure. They have been exposed to national and international ideas and developments. The FNR and CAA nominees stand out as inhabiting the middle class space of Naga society.

A historical aside is in order here. Naga nationalism, and the NNC which symbolised it, drew its inspiration from a generation of Christian, western educated Nagas, approximating to a nascent middle class. Udayon Sharma in his study of the middle class and Naga nationalism30 maintains that the growth of Naga nationalism was not perceived as a threat by the traditional tribal leaders, largely because the British left undisturbed the economic pattern and the authority of the tribal councils. Also, the NNC cast itself as the defender of the tribal way of life. Since then Naga nationalism has an entrenched support base in Naga tribal institutions. But Phizo’s imagined tribal utopia is threatened, especially after Naga statehood and the entry of the market economy. A small but powerful “new” middle class comprising bureaucrats, business people, lawyers, teachers, student unions and women’s groups has emerged with consequences for reshaping Naga national aspirations. Scholar-activist Walter Fernandes analysing the potential tension between the modern elite among the tribes and traditional elite argued that while the former want autonomy, the latter want Independence.31

Muivah’s Journey of Peace and Reconciliation

How intractable the disunity gridlock is was shown up in Muivah’s own “Journey of Peace and Reconciliation”. The May 2011 Mao Gate controversy over the ban on T Muivah visiting his village Somdal in Ukhrul district provoked outrage at GOI’s double talk and Meitei opposition to Muivah’s visit. There was a groundswell of solidarity and empathy among the Nagas. Boxed in by the Indian state, Muivah turned his retreat into an opportunity to reach out to the Naga people of Nagaland. His journey of peace and reconciliation covered nine tribal homelands.32 But Muivah showed himself unable to rise above the obsession of fixing “blame” and betraying an attitude of righteous arrogance. As one of our women interlocutors remarked, Nagas are a hospitable people. If Muivah wanted to visit, they welcomed him. But there were bitter memories of the I-M’s targeted killings of their sons. NMA had appealed to Muivah to make a symbolic apology. No apology was made. At Mokokchung, the Ao homeland (Jamir’s tribe), Muivah was unrelenting. “For the past many years the states and a number of Nagas had connived to construe the Naga issue as an internal law and order problem and legitimised their position through Accords and Agreements”. “Reconciliation”, he added, “will be arrived at respecting our rights and aspirations and not on the whim of any individual or aspiration”.33

3 Naga Integrated Homeland

As Naga nationalist history tells it, the Nagas have been partitioned, not once but twice. In 1826, by the Treaty of Yandaboo, the British divided the Naga occupied territories between British India and Burma. In 1963, India established the state of Nagaland and divided the Naga dominated hill districts into what eventually became four of the seven states of the north-east – Nagaland, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The Nagas demand to live together in a common administrative unit is constructed as a natural yearning for the homeland, Nagalim. It is inscribed in the 1947 Hydari Agreement and the 1960 16-Point Agreement which paved the way for statehood but left out Naga hill districts. Naga public intellectual, Chasie laments the haste with which the NPC negotiators lost an opportunity in concluding the 1960 Agreement. They failed to insist on the integration of all Naga inhabited areas into one administrative unit. “At the time, it would not have been difficult to integrate the Naga areas falling within the boundaries of the Indian Union, even if those on the Burmese side could not be included immediately.”34 As he warned, integration has proved most difficult with the passage of time.

In 1972, the union territory of Manipur graduated to full statehood. Since then the majority population of Manipur, the Meiteis are adamant that they will defend the territorial integrity of Manipur.35 The Naga dominated hill districts are equally insistent on breaking with the valley centric polity and society. On 1 July 2010, the Manipur Nagas resolved through the NPC to sever all political ties with the Government of Manipur (GoM). To fill the political vacuum, they proposed the vaguely formulated “Alternative Arrangement” (AA) within the Indian constitution.36 Some decry it as slicing up the core demand of integration. Others denounce it as part of the “divide-n-rule” chicanery of state agencies to setback the talks.

But Naga scholars like U A Shimray have charged the Nagas of being long in rhetoric and short in commitment to integration. The issue of Naga integration preceded that of sovereignty, he reminded. Whereas the idea of an independent homeland captured the imagination of thousands of young Nagas, the struggle for integration did not engage the Naga underground. It concerned the Indian Constitution, rejected by them. The “Naga demand for integration died along with the grant of statehood to Manipur and active participation in electoral politics”,37 said Shimray. The Nagaland legislative assembly passed some 18 resolutions urging integration of Naga areas since 1964. But as an elderly educationist in Ukhrul retorted, “Why don’t the Nagaland state leaders abrogate the terms of the 16 point accord, and dissolve the Nagaland state. They are not serious. Our Naga MLAs in Manipur are not serious.”

The 1997 ceasefire and political talks brought integration back on the agenda. Many of the crises of the post-ceasefire period involve integration. The politically determined misunderstandings38 over the extension of the GOI-NSCN (I-M) ceasefire to all the Naga inhabited areas resulted in the absurdity of a ceasefire in Nagaland but a shooting war in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal

56 Pradesh. Four years later, in 2001, when the GOI agreed to a ceasefire without territorial limits, Meitei-dominated Manipur erupted violently. The extension was seen as the first step to slicing off the Naga-dominated hill districts. The GOI rescinded the order, nearly rupturing the peace talks. Nine years later came the Mao gate crisis. The Congress Chief Minister of Manipur, Ibobi Singh whipped up Meitei chauvinism raising the spectre of the creation of Greater Nagaland.

It is not that integration is prioritised over independence. Our Naga interlocutors were explicit – “Integration can’t be equated with independence”; “It is not the core agenda of the movement. Political talks will take it into consideration.” However, the commitment to “Nagalim” as a symbolic, if not immediate goal is of continuing importance for the NSCN leaders – T Muivah, a Tanghkul Naga and S Kaphlang, a Konyak Naga. In the Nagaland political and territorial space, they belong to minority tribes and need to maintain that linkage with “southern” and “eastern” Nagas for strategically consolidating their power and legitimacy.39

Integration is a revolving goal. It claims centre stage when the Nagas are under siege. The Mao Gate stand-off prompted the Naga Hoho in Nagaland to declare in solidarity “...henceforth, we derecognise any artificial boundary lines drawn across our ancestral lands in the so-called Manipur State”. But in our Kohima conversations, we picked up ambivalence to removing these (internal) borders. “To the outside world the Nagas represent one people, one nation and one land. But internally, there is a lot of debate over the question of integration”, a senior NMA representative said. At the time of the Mao Gate “sit in”, the women were the first to rush in with relief materials to assist Nagas fleeing Manipur. They were heckled by neighbours and friends – “Do you want the southern Nagas to come and take over our jobs and resources?”

Expectedly, five decades of statehood in Nagaland have created layers of stakeholders in the political and economic status quo. The 1997 ceasefire dividends have devolved largely on Nagaland state. The CSDS 2008 Nagaland survey on integration of Manipur hills polled 42% no and 34% yes; Myanmar hills 35% no and 42% yes; Assam 31% no, 40% yes. The divide over integration seems less tribal than geopolitical with the “southern” and “eastern” Nagas more committed and the western Nagas more ambivalent. As a perceptive editor of a Dimapur-based newspaper pointed out, increasingly the new categories are being framed as “geopolitical”, transcending tribal lines.

With the NSCN leadership, the integration issue has been centre stage. But what the 2001 and 2010 crises revealed was that irrespective of the GOI affirming in Parliament a redrawing of borders, if the state government resists, the agreement would be a dead letter. Indeed, the equivocal and even obstructionist role of state governments – Nagaland and Manipur – points to the need to redesign the “peace table” to accommodate not only the armed protagonists but also potential spoilers – state governments and opposition political parties.

New Ideas for Old Problems: ‘Alternative Arrangement’

Plaintively, at the town hall meetings in Senapati and Ukhrul, leaders of Naga social organisations complained at the GOI bowing to Meitei pressure: “GOI listens to the Meiteis, the Assamese

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and the Arunachalese. Why don’t they listen to the people concerned, the Nagas?” That emotional frustration is giving way to pragmatism. In a federal system of states with stakes in territorial integrity, if not in minority peoples, Naga integration is unlikely. Also, the Mao Gate incident showed that in a crisis the NSCN’s collective leadership would back down. In the emotionally charged atmosphere of May 2010, youth in Senapati half expected Muivah to defiantly cross over. As a young Naga activist protested, “We have ceasefire at the cost of Naga integration”. The AA initiative is born out of the frustration of Manipur Nagas becoming a sacrificial appendage to the Nagaland centred national movement. Their challenge is to navigate that thin line between sustaining the peace process and caretaking the neglected interests of the Naga peoples of Manipur.

Manipur’s fault line of the hill valley divide and the de facto dual system of administration, invites James Scott’s explanatory thesis of state – non-state relationship40 between settled agriculturalists in the Meitei-dominated Imphal valley and the autonomous village republics of the Christian Naga dominated hills.41 Meiteis comprise over 65% of the population and 10% of the land area. The Nagas and Kuki-Thadou-Paite (Zo) tribal communities make up 34%. It is beyond the scope of this essay to map the structure of discriminatory laws and grievances of the Nagas in Manipur. These are detailed in the briefing pamphlet of the CAA.42 Ironically, the Meitei’s complain of a reverse sense of grievance over tribal reservations in jobs and restrictions on buying tribal land.43

Constructivist histories of the Meiteis, Nagas and Zos – perched on a competitive understanding of “historic rights” – have proved intensely confrontational, with their concomitant position of “self-contained” ethnic communities.44 The Naga nation as constructed in the NNC imaginary is a solidarity of all the Naga tribes. At the moment of the integration of the princely states, including Manipur, the Naga National League, speaking for the Naga hill districts of Manipur, declared that after 15 August 1947 the Nagas would not remain with the Meiteis. Subsequently, the Nagas boycotted elections to the first legislative assembly of Manipur, launched a “No Tax Campaign” in 1948, and submitted the annual house tax to the DC of the Naga hills of Assam in Kohima. Recognising the dysfunctional working of the Autonomous Districts Councils (ADCs) provided by the colonial Manipur (Hill Areas) Regulation, the state assembly repeatedly recommended to the centre introduction of the Sixth Schedule. Matters came to a head with the state government passing the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (3rd Amendment) Act 2008,45 proposing the state’s own model “with local adjustment”. Despite widespread opposition, the Ibobi government held elections to the Council (ADC). The Naga student body, All Naga Students Asso ciation Manipur (ANSAM) hit back with an indefinite economic blockade of the Imphal valley’s national highways.46 Close on its heels came the Mao Gate incident. In July 2010 the Nagas declared that relations with the Manipur state stand severed.

To fill the governance vacuum, the UNC proposed an AA.47 In September 2010 the UNC submitted a memo to the home ministry explicating that the AA would be within the Indian Constitution. The Nagas are not the only stakeholders. Some sections of the

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Kukis have shown solidarity with the AA.48 Currently minorities such as Kukis, Paitis, Hmars are clubbed in an umbrella tribal identity. SAFHR’s studies show that invariably in ethno-(sub)nationalist projects, an almost enforced uniform identity gets mobilised, folding in heterogeneous constituencies united against a dominant opposition. Post-accord, that unity tends to break up, leaving the minorities more conspicuous and isolated than before. In this context, if the demand for an alternative arrangement is to be located as the demand of all the discriminated and disaffected hill tribes of Manipur, it has to be kept distinct from the goal of Nagalim.

The term “alternative arrangement” has been left deliberately vague. As a human rights activist in Ukhrul explained, “Many people advised us to demand a separate state. But that would have been misunderstood as undermining Naga unity.” The vagueness enables flexibility in negotiations, but it makes the Nagas in Nagaland nervous. In Kohima, the AA proposal was sharply attacked. “If a sovereign and integrated Nagalim was being negotiated between NSCN (I-M) and the GOI, then where was the space for an alternative arrangement?”. “How many times will you divide the Nagas?”. The surfacing, simultaneously, of the eastern Naga’s demand for a separate state of Frontier Nagaland has heightened suspicions about Indian state agencies sponsoring division and co-optation. The new twist to the old game, a Naga public intellectual suggested, was to use “development” to divide the Nagas. Crores of rupees were being pumped into the Nagaland state. The Nagas in the east and south feel deprived and alienated. Giving a more positive spin to the AA initiative, NSF President Mutsikhoyo Yhobu described it as a “first step to enable the Nagas to administratively separate and distinguish themselves from the Meiteis. Eventually the Nagas of Arunachal and Assam will follow the same track,” he said.

Significantly, the I-M has not opposed it. But should the UNC’s occasional diffidence on AA be attributed to the I-M’s ambivalence? More importantly, between the southern Naga tribal apex body the UNC and its creature the committee for AA, drawn from the growing “middle classes”, there is evidence of latent tension, suggestive of a contest of authority and differences over transparency and less hierarchical ways of doing. Sources close to the CAA revealed that when members fanned out to villages to mobilise support and resources, their success made the tribal “elders” wary at their authority getting undermined. The UNC halted the mission. In such initiatives as CAA (FNR), urban, educated, professionally competent women are conspicuous as partners. At the Delhi meeting with the home ministry, UNC was flanked by the Naga MLAs who had just resigned, and powerful women leaders of NWUM, NPMHR. Disappointingly, at the first tripartite meeting of the GOI, the GOM and the CAA in Senapati in December 2010 and July 2011, the teams were all male. Women were eased off the high table.

Frontier Nagaland

Kohima’s attitude towards the Frontier Nagaland demand was more dismissive and hostile. On 27 December 2010 the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) submitted a memo to GOI demanding statehood within the Indian union comprising the districts of Tuensang, Longleng, Kiphire and Mon. To demonstrate popular support, mass rallies were organised. “This is a mass movement. Our demand of Frontier Nagaland is based on historical facts. Our people don’t get jobs,” insisted ENPO General Secretary Toshi Wungpung.49

Naga HoHo blamed the home ministry for encouraging “some extinguished politicians”.50 The Khaplang group derided the demand as a ploy to divide and weaken the Nagas. Rejecting the autonomy demands, the groups’ Prime Minister Kitovi stated, “I will not allow any civil society to challenge the integrity of the NSCN or accept the revivalism of the fate of Imkongliba’s 16-Point Agreement.”51 The group’s support base rests on the eastern Nagas divided by the Indo-Myanmar border. Khaplang needs to keep alive the symbolic goal of the Naga sovereignty and integration to legitimise his relevance in the larger Naga politics of the region and to leverage his position in Myanmar. He accuses the I-M of having abandoned the eastern Nagas at the peace table. IM’s “Proposal for a Solution” submitted to the GOI in 2001 states that “the portions of Nagaland which are situated in present day Myanmar will not form part of the present negotiations”. As for the Frontier Nagaland state, the NSCN (I-M) has adopted a wait and watch attitude on the ENPO’s demand. “So many states might be birthed once a permanent solution comprising of all Nagas is achieved”, a senior I-M leader said.52

4 Sovereignty

After nearly six decades of the Naga struggle, Phizo’s bald assertion in the 1960s that the Nagas would settle for nothing short of sovereignty has narrowed down to an “honourable solution” at the Indo-Naga peace table. What that “honourable solution” has got whittled down to – from the NSCN I-M’s position adumbrated in its 2001 submission on dividing sovereignty to news reports that speak of special “autonomies” – is mired in confusion and secrecy, haunted by memories of earlier accords of betrayal and division. The lengthening of the distance between the period of strife and the period of calm has reduced the violent impact of the insurgency and counter-insurgency operations. A post-haste compromise agreement immediately after a ceasefire would have been easier to sell to a people bruised from violence. The lack of democratic engagement with “civil society” on the negotiations has fired suspicions about a “sell out” on sovereignty.

In the world of the Nagas, it is sovereignty that legitimates the armed struggle. The question of sovereignty and its betrayal is at the core of the disagreements and divisions among the Nagas over the accords of 1960, 1975 and 1997. It is the rational basis for the rejection of the accords and the internecine blood letting that followed. “If not sovereignty, what is the value of the sacrifices made”, ask NNC stalwarts. The commitment to sovereignty, even at the symbolic level of “something in the distant future”, props up the goal of integration of all the Naga areas. It is politically necessary for the vulnerable Naga communities spatially left out of Nagaland. The 1960 Agreement, which delivered the territorially bounded state of Nagaland, left more vulnerable the Nagas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal. It is their anxiety about an uncertain political future as they get marginalised in the centrifugal political dynamics of

58 Nagaland that has prompted the southern Naga demand for an “Alternative Arrangement”.

The emotional centrality of the sovereignty issue accounts for the suspicious wariness that entraps the I-M into a tight closed circle of confidants linked through tribal affiliations. Divided sovereignty, confederal association of Nagalim and India are mooted in the public discourse. The NSCN 2001 position rests on the “distinct identity of the Naga nation” and speaks of competencies to be exercised singly and jointly by the Government of Nagaland (GoN). The sovereignty demand figures in the 30-point memo handed over to the GOI’s new interlocutor R S Pandey in 2010. T Muivah, in a recent interview, suggested a confederal structure. “It will be a federation of India on one side and Nagalim on the other. While the terms of relations will have to be worked out, under no circumstance should Nagalim be treated as a state in India.” On dividing sovereignty, he is emphatic: “Sovereignty of Nagalim belongs to the Naga people. Sovereignty of India belongs to the Indian people...When we say negotiations, it naturally involves sacrifices from both sides.”53

Pragmatically speaking, most Nagas accept the scaling down of the sovereignty position as inevitable. According to the CSDS 2008 election survey in Nagaland, 41% of the respondents were for independence, 35% for greater autonomy and 15% for the status quo. In the last five decades, especially after the creation of the Nagaland state, the government has made every effort to reach out and penetrate to the lowest levels possible, but loyalty to the Indian state proves tenuous and fragile. As a case in point, our interlocutors in Dimapur drew attention to the institution of the Gao Budhas (GBs, village elders) who were state-appointed. But these GBs are the ones who collect taxes from people on behalf of the underground!

This ambivalence is succinctly captured in a statement of Lanunungsang Ao, Dean of Social Sciences Nagaland University: “I love India because I belong to India, but I love Nagaland more than India because I am a Naga born there and shall die there whether in shame or national dignity”.54 The SAFHR 2011 survey of Nagaland reflects this complex reality. While 17% of the Nagas identified with the national identity and 32% picked both national and regional/ethnic identity, 47% identified only with their regional/ethnic identity. From a gender lens, 61% of women identified more with their regional/ethnic identity. The findings get further refracted with a youth lens. These youth question the authority of the leadership of the tribal elders and the national movement.

5 Conclusions

“Sovereignty”, “unity” and “integration” are the shifting goalposts in delivering an honourable solution to 60 years of the Naga struggle. A protracted ceasefire and a deadlocked political process have created the anomaly of normalising ceasefire as peace. A generation has come of age that knows only the development and welfare face of the Indian state, not its jackboots. Violence has stopped, routine harassment and indignities ended, though the checkposts are still there, as are the potential vulnerabilities.

Nagaland, clearly benefits the most from the Indian state switching its military strategy for a development one. Substantive

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funds have been funnelled, spawning a network of Naga contrac-astray our leaders making them dependent upon ill-gotten tors. During this protracted impasse at reaching a political settle-wealth.” “In the initial stages, the Naga movement was like a ment, the vacuum has been filled by the Nagaland state govern-people’s movement. But now it’s like a factional movement”. “Is ment. As a Naga HoHo member observed, “The ceasefire has the ceasefire being prolonged so that I-M leaders can become weakened the Naga movement and allowed a complete takeover rich? No construction contract is possible without economically by the GOI and the GON”. The tamed politics of the Naga “civil involving the ‘national workers’”. But in the midst of this vocifersociety” is now crowded with rhetoric about development, food ous criticism, what was striking was the frankness with which security and the creation of infrastructure. Interlinked is the outspoken criticism could be voiced, a reflection of expanding growth of a small but powerful middle class which is steadily democratic space. reshaping the vision of an independent Naga nation that has been Meanwhile the Indian state’s strategy of normalising the ceaserooted in the tribal institutions of Naga society. The moving spirit fire as peace, while creating conditions in which I-M and other behind many of the new ideas and initiatives for resolving the old groups are allowed to recruit new cadres and refurbish arms problems of unity and integration (FNR, AA and ENPO) are coming supplies, can only stoke instability and renewed violence. To from the professional “middle class” women and men. Fourteen wait out the ageing I-M leadership, and weaken it by entrapping years of ceasefire has seen the expansion of a “non-partisan” mid-second-rung leaders like Anthony Shimray, and to pit “K” against dle space, the space of Naga social organisations, which hold the the I-M, may squander the best chance for peace. For today, promise of nudging the political groups towards reconciliation there is a real possibility that the Nagas are in a better position to and even accountability. realise a consensus on the issues that have divided them and

This hiatus of “no war – no political solution” has vitiated the secure an “honourable agreement”. The I-M, on its own, cannot mystique of the leadership and idealism about the national move-deliver a peace agreement. The ghosts of the 1960 and 1975 ment. Peoples’ sense of disillusionment and anger was vocal in accords are at the peace table. But as a highly respected sympa-Ukhrul, once a bastion of the I-M. “Peace has broken the spirit of thiser of the NNC acknowledged, grudgingly, T Muivah was by far the Naga struggle”. “It has lowered the image of the cadres, led the Nagas’ best bet to negotiate the toughest deal with India.

Notes and References activism see Samir Das “Conflict and Peace in Sociological Reflections and A Plea for Pragma
1 2 3 4 National Socialist Council Nagaland (NSCN) Isak-Muivah (I-M)’s Announcement of Ceasefire Agreement with GOI, July 1997; NSCN Khaplang (K) Ceasefire Agreement with GOI, April 2001; Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) and GOI Ceasefire Agreement, September 1964. For excerpts of the “Flag Raising Day” speeches, see The Morung Express, 22 and 23 March 2011. Clashes between I-M and K cadres on the Tirap and Myanmar border on 24 February 2011 resulted in 35 cadres killed. See news/report/over-35-cadres-killed-as-rival-nagafactions-clash/20110307.htm accessed 23 July 2011. “Civil Society” is a contentious concept with its intellectual antecedents ranging from Marxist to liberal traditions, and its practical revival as the terrain of democratisations of the totalitarian societies of eastern Europe to its recasting in the global south as the “voluntary” sector between state and market. More contemporaneously, as Ashutosh Varshney’s empirical analysis suggests, “Civil Society Inhabits the Non-State Space of Our Collective Life and Covers Both Social and Political Activities” (2002: 4). Its core aspect is its relations to democratisation and expanding human freedoms. For our purposes, we suggest as a working definition, a plural space where people in association with each other can debate and con 5 6 7 8 North East: Role of Civil Society”, East-West Centre, 2007; Rita Manchanda, “The Role of Civil Society in Peace Building” in Fernandes and Barbora (ed.), Search for Peace with Justice (NE Social Science Centre, 2008); also see Sanjib Baruah’s 2005 Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of Northeast India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), p 12. Rita Manchanda “We Do More Because We Can: Women in the Naga Peace Process”, SAFHR, Kathmandu, 2004.The Morung Express, 22 March 2011, “As Traders Protest, Nagaland Wakes Up To Extortion Menace”, Indian Express, 19 July 2011. Kumar and Murthy in “Four Years of the Naga Ceasefire” cite Subir Bhowmik of the BBC referring to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointing an interlocutor to sound out NSCN in 1985. It may be the basis for Khaplang’s allegation that Isak and Muivah had worked out an agreement with the Home Minister Rajesh Pilot. In 1988, NSCN split. Sajal Nag in Contesting Marginality (2002) sees the 1990s as marking a watershed in the NSCN’s changing strategy, now characterised by an increase in the firepower damage by the armed group, and the direct targeting of civilians – extortion, threats, bomb blasts, and sponsorship of insurgent outfits. See pp 296-311. 12 13 14 15 tism”, EPW, 18 June 2011: 73. Subir Bhaumik, “An Accord That Never Was: The Shillong Accord” in Jehan Perera (ed.), Peace Process in Nagaland and Chittagong Hill Tracts, SAFHR Paper Series 5, 1999, p 7. Sajal Nag describes the NPC as a people’s movement drawn from every tribe with the Kohima Convention attended by some 1,756 traditional representatives and 2,000 Naga observers (Contesting Marginality, pp 255-59); Consolidating this Charles Chasie in The Naga Imbroglio (1999) drew attention to the many consultations that took place (p 150). See Kumar and Murthy for a more critical presentation (pp 52-53). For a eulogistic account, see the Congress Party’s White Paper “Bedrock of Naga Society” (2000). Interview quoted in Kumar and Murthy, p 101. For a genealogical analysis of the Naga accords, see K Sanjay Singh, “Naga Accords: An Instance of Domination Through Negotiation” and Subir Bhaumik, 1998, op cit; Also see Ranabir Samaddar “Governing through Peace Accords” (1999) available at Survey data refers to two surveys, the Lokniti-CSDS Election Survey of Nagaland (2008); and SAFHR Sample Survey 2011 of Nagaland, Mizoram, Chittagong Hill Tracts and Madhes (Nepal) (2011). It used a standardised questionnaire designed with the aid of the Lokniti group. As the
test their version of the political, and hold state, institutions, and officials accountable (Neera Chandhoke, “The Conceits of Civil Society, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2003: 30). Arguably, in situating Naga tribal-based social organisations as inhabiting the “Modern” sphere of civil society, we stumble on the binary opposition to traditional organisations as not belonging. Varshney’s reminder here is timely that the ethnic form of association building need not be equal to traditionalism if they meet the functional or purposive criteria. It should be added that “traditional” organisations like the Naga Hoho came into being 9 10 11 The Sentinel, 9 February 1995; See also Charles Chasie and Sanjoy Hazarika’s The State Strikes Back: India and The Naga Insurgency (East West Centre 2009), p 18; also R N Kumar and Laxmi Murthy’s Four Years of the Naga Peace Process (New Delhi: The Other Media), 2001, p 85; see also Kuldip Nayar, The Indian Express, 4 August 1997. See Kumar and Murthy, p 110. Also see T Muivah’s observations as quoted by Sumanta Banerjee in EPW, 18 July 1992, pp 1525-27. The crucial significance of establishing the “Authenticity of Representativeness” explains the symbolic value of the 1951 plebiscite in which 16 sample was relatively small, from 280 (CHT) respondents to 170 (Nagaland), it was thought advisable to draw upon the 2008 Survey findings to consolidate our findings. Also, in view of the limited sample, it was decided to club the range of responses – “somewhat” and “absolute” into values of Yes and No. See also Patricia Justino et al “Data Collection in Violent Contests: Methodological Challenges”, IDS Bulletin, Vol 40, No 3, May 2009, pp 41-49. See Kitovi’s speech at Camp Khehoi on the occasion of GPRN/NSCN Republic Day (The Morung Express, 22 March 2011).
in the 1980s. Indeed, Naga society’s basic social 99% of the Nagas favoured independence. There 17 Khaplang group split vertically in June 2011, fol
norms of collective activism are what provided are many versions of the plebiscite, including lowing an internal coup that expelled Khaplang
the basis for the success of “Civil Society” activ some which highlight its restrictions – confined for unceremoniously ousting the group’s army
ism (N K Das, EPW, 18 June 2011: 75). For a critical to Kohima and Mokokchung districts and exclud commander, Gen Konyak. The Khaplang faction
analysis of the politicised sphere of civil society ing women. See N K Das, “Naga Peace Parleys: seems to be in a minority.

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18 Exclusive Interview with T Muivah, Parts I and II, Tehelka, 9 February and 26 March 2011.

19 Ibid.

20 Neingulo Krome, “The Civil Society Initiative and People to People”, excerpts of interviews with NPMHR president, and Rev V K Nuh and Rev Zhabu Terhuja on the role of the church, quoted by Kumar and Murthy, p 133, pp 118-19. For a detailed gendered narrative of civil society’s role, see Rita Manchanda We Do More Because We Can: Women in the Naga Peace Process (SAFHR 2004).

21 Data from tables of “Annual Fatalities in Terrorist Violence in Nagaland, 1992-2011”, listed in South Asia Terrorism Portal,

22 Subir Bhaumik, Troubled Periphery.

23 The Forum consists of apex organisations including Naga Hoho, Eastern Naga Peoples Organisation (ENPO), Eastern Naga Students Federation (ENSF), Eastern Naga Students Association (ENSA), GBs and DBs Federation Nagaland, Naga Women Union, Manipur (NWUM), United Naga Council, Manipur (UNC), All Naga Students Association Manipur (ANSAM), Naga Mothers Association (NMA), Naga Students Federation (NSF), Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Shisha Hoho office bearers and Naga Peace Convention speakers. FNR was formed at the Naga Peace Convention held from 22 to 24 February 2008 at Dimapur.

24 “Reconciliation Soccer: A New Threshold”, The Morung Express, 12 November 2008.

25 The NSCN I-M civil society consultations in Bangkok in 2002 were a very promising beginning towards democratisation but it proved short lived.

26 N K Das, “Naga Peace Parleys”, EPW, 1 June 2011, p 76.

27 The Morung Express, 23 March 2011.

28 The Morung Express, 21 March 2011.

29 Leela Fernandes’ (2006) study of India’s New Middle Class in India provides many explanatory resonances helpful in understanding the constitution of such a social group and its working through the civil society sphere as opposed to the sphere of electoral (majority) politics. While civil society space is often conflated with the middle class sphere, however, as Chandhoke and Fernandes argue, social movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan can, through struggle, expand and even transform the sphere of civil society, and indeed make heterogeneous the middle class. On the Naga middle class, see Udayon Misra “Naga Nationalism and the Role of the Middle Class” in J B Dutta Ray (ed.), The Emergence and Role of Middle Class in the North-east (Uppal Publishing House, 1983), pp 151-69.

30 Udayon Misra (1983: 161); see also Sajal Nag’s (2002) Contesting Marginality (Delhi: Manohar).

31 Walter Fernandes, “Conflict in North East: A Historical Perspective”, Economic & Political Weekly, 18 December 1999, pp 3579-82.

32 “Strengthening the Peace Process: Journey for Peace and Reconciliation”, 5 May 2010-15 July 2010, Ato Kilosner’s Office, NSCN/GPRN.

33 Ibid.

34 Charles Chaisie, The Naga Imbroglio (United Publishers, May 1999), pp 150-51.

35 Article 3 of the Indian Constitution empowers Parliament to alter the internal territorial boundaries. For non-Naga Manipuri perspectives on the Naga demand, see the website Manipur Online:

36 “The Movement for Alternative Arrangement for the Nagas of Manipur”, The Committee for Alternative Arrangement, UNC, February 2011.

37 U A Shimray, Naga Population and Integration Movement (Mittal Publications, 2007), p 99.

38 Conversations with Naga leaders on the “Integration’ and Ceasefire Extension Issues” in Kumar and Murthy, pp 108-11.

39 The NSCN manifesto flags the “Long Awaited Historic Merger of East and West [as] Formally Made at Nokpa Village on 30 January 1980”. See “NSCN: A Brief Political Account of Nagaland” cited by Nag, p 294.

40 James C Scott, “Why Civilisation Cannot Climb Hills”, IESHR lecture, Delhi, 13 December 2008.

41 The Nagas inhabit four of the nine districts of Manipur, Ukhrul, Senapati, Tamenglong, Chandel, and 26 villages in Churachandpur district.

42 For a Naga account, see “The Movement for Alternative Arrangement”; Bela Bhatia, “Justice Denied to Tribals in the Hill Districts of Manipur”, EPW, 12 July 2010; also see H K K Suan, “Hills-Valley Divide as a Site of Conflict: Emerging Dialogic Space in Manipur” in Sanjib Baruah (ed.), Beyond Counterinsurgency (Oxford University Press, 2009).

43 Hemant Katoch, Ouseph Tharakan and Rupak Borah, “Manipur”, Comparative Perspectives on Conflict Management in India, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Geneva, 2011.

44 See “Suan Hills Valley Divide as a Site of Conflict”, p 279.

45 Sixth Schedule covers the four north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The hill districts of Manipur were not included.

46 Sushanta Talukdar, “The Siege Within”, Frontline, Vol 27, Issue 12, 5-18 June 2010.

47 It has displaced the “Sixth Schedule Demand Committee” which for years spearheaded the demand in the state assembly and mobilised for boycotting elections to the AHDCs.

48 There is a history of conflict between the Kukis and the Nagas (Kukis-Meitei groups). A “Suspension of Operations Agreement” has also been signed between the Government of India, Government of Manipur and the Kuki revolutionary groups under the UPS (United People’s Front) and KNO (Kuku National Organisation) in Delhi on 22 August 2008. It states that the Kukis will maintain the territorial integrity of Manipur.

49 Nagaland Post, 8 January 2011.


51 M E Marc 22, 21 March 2011.

52 Muivah Interview, Tehelka, 26 March 2011.

53 Ibid.

54 Cited in From Phizo to Mulvah (New Delhi: Mittal Publications) 2002, pp vii-viii.


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