ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nagaland: Needed, a New Direction

With the centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN-IM) agreeing to an extension of the ceasefire “indefinitely”, subject to “progress in talks”, peace of a kind will prevail once again between the two parties. The talks with the NSCN-IM have been an annual exercise since 1997. While the ceasefire has been renewed every year, other main issues that have long formed the NSCN-IM’s plank – the integration of contiguous Naga populated areas in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh into a greater Nagalim and a new “federated” relationship with the centre – remain on the backburner. On the ground, meanwhile, much has changed since 1997.

In recent years, the border issue between the three northeastern states, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland, has only escalated, with the involvement of newer militant groups on either side. Periodic incursions across the border by one group have seen similar punitive action or the imposition of blockades by the opposing group. In 2004, the Supreme Court set up a boundary commission to resolve the border dispute between the three states. Naga leaders since independence (the NSCN was formed only in 1980) have always claimed that the state’s borders, framed in 1925, were a colonial construct, and served merely as an administrative convenience. The Indian state inherited colonially created territorial entities, but resolving border issues, especially in the north-east, have always been complex, owing to clan notions of territoriality that continue to exist to some degree. What makes it more difficult to resolve in the present-day context are certain contradictions – there are the necessary ground level political adjustments required as national parties reach for a settlement with ethnic leaders in the north-east; there has been the rise of identity politics espoused by smaller ethnic groups, as well as the attempt to foist a new discourse of development, complete with financial assistance, generous aid packages, investment, etc, by the centre, on the north-east.

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