Perils in the North-East: Nagaland

Nagaland, as we know, is a land-locked state in north-eastern India. The state has experienced insurgency, as well as an inter-ethnic conflict, since the 1950s.

What is article 371 A?

Article 371 bestows special status on north-eastern states. Article 371 A of the Constitution, enacted in 1963, confers special provisions on Nagaland, with clause (a) reading:

“[N]o Act of Parliament in respect of (i) religious or social practices of the Nagas, (ii) Naga customary law and procedure, (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, (iv) ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides”.

Clause 1, sub-clause (b), of this article provides certain special responsibilities to the Governor of Nagaland with respect to the law and order in the state. According to Article 163, the governor has to consult the Council of Ministers in these matters. Despite this article, he can exercise his individual judgement regarding the action to be taken.

A brief history of the longest insurgency in India

The Naga ethnic conflict has a long history tracing back its origins to 1918 with the formation of the Naga Club by the member who had fought in the World War I. The people of the Naga ethnic community felt that they had nothing in common with the people of mainland India. In 1946, this Naga club was further reinforced by the formation of the Naga National Council (NNC) which repeatedly appealed the British government to treat the areas with Naga inhabitants as a separate nation.

All efforts and peace agreements put forth to the NNC were unacceptable to them as their demand was the creation of “Nagalim,” a Greater Nagaland, comprising all the Naga-dominated areas in the Indian Northeast, creating a separate state. The movement started with the demand for total sovereignty in the 1950s. The 1950s, 60s and 70s were a vociferous period in the Naga history militancy on the rise coupled by the state’s military response propelled by acts like Armed Forces (special powers) Act, 1958.

Since then, the Naga insurgency has lasted for more than 70 years making it the longest standing insurgent movement in India.

What is the current situation?

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed in 1980 after the failure of the Shillong Accord of 1975 (a peace agreement the Union Government and NNC). The NSCN and its factions is considered as one of the most notorious insurgent and terror outfits in the north-east. In 2015, the Centre signed a peace accord with NSCN (IM) and the negotiations are ongoing. But the NSCN (K) faction continues to be in the state of war with the Government of India.

The Govenrment of India is represented by Mr. R N Ravi who is also the Governor of Nagaland. The Naga peace process is still undergoing under his leadership. Recently, the Governor has written a letter to the state’s Chief Minister highlighting how armed gangs are running their own parallel governments, thereby threatening the state’s law and order situation as well as posing a challenge to the legitimacy of the government. He has pointed out the failure of the state government and the state police to offer any sort of resistance to these insurgent groups. According to him, this failure has affected the state’s revenue which in turn has affected the availability of funds for socio-economic developments. He also believes that the prevailing law and order situation is the direct cause of poor infrastructure, poor education and poor health-care facilities in the state.

The North-eastern India is one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse part of the country. It needs to be conserved and protected from violence and insurgency. The people of these states deserve to live peaceful and prosperous lives. As suggested by the Governor, I, too believe that the state governments have to take stricter and more efficient actions against these insurgent groups.

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