India has signed a landmark peace deal on Monday with a major tribal separatist group in the country’s northeast in an attempt to resolve one of the nation’s longest running internal conflicts.
The representatives of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) met with the officials from the Modi government in New Delhi at the Prime Minister’s residence signing the agreement for the Naga people. The Home Minister was also present during the peace talks. The NSCN has been fighting for an independent ethnic Naga homeland known as Nagalim for Naga tribes uniting today’s Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and neighbouring state of Myanmar since India’s independence in 1947. Even though the group declared the formation of a sovereign Naga territory, they haven’t been able to realize it even after independence. Despite a cease fire with the Indian government in 1998, no formal peace agreements have been made so far. The terms and details of the latest agreement are not known. The Modi government has said that it would help develop the region through funds for building better infrastructure.
The Indian government and the Naga National Council signed the ‘Shillong Accord’ on November 1, 1975 which paved way for India-Naga discourses and the Naga groups subsequently putting down their weapons. According to this pact, Nagaland would accept the Indian constitution and drop its demand for independence. But the indiscretions in the treaty led to the formation of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). The organization split into two groups in 1988 known as Isak-Muivah and Khaplang of which Isak-Muivah is more prominent. The Modi government signed the peace treaty with this group. One has yet to see how far the agreement is practical. The response of states like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and also that of Khaplang, are yet to be seen. The discourses of the Indian government with Isak-Muivah have not gone down well with the rival Khaplang militants. The group had kidnapped and killed eighteen Indian soldiers in Manipur's Chandel district on June 4. Whether the issue would be resolved through peace talks with just one militant group remains unanswered. There are also possibilities of other militant groups retorting to extreme measures.
The new agreement is likely to have the same fate as the Shillong Accord. But the willingness of the centre to approach the political issue politically and to carry out discourses is appreciable. The Sangh Parivar including the BJP strongly opposes separatism and believes that no discussions should be carried out with separatists. The party believes that relentless suppression is the only way out. The Naga People’s Front, an alley of BJP rules Nagaland. P.B. Acharya who is the governor was in-charge of party affairs in northeast states. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval played a significant role in the peace negotiations. The Sangh Parivar would have vehemently opposed the move had the Congress initiated the talks. The BJP had created much uproar over an ifthar meet invite for Kashmiri Hurriet leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani by the Pakistan embassy. Splitting the issues along communal and racial lines and igniting sentiments instead of approaching the issues politically is what BJP does, usually. So the move from the Prime Minister is highly welcome. The deal therefore is highly relevant and the efforts by the Indian government, laudable.