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Nagas entering the final phase of power struggle

by Rinku Khumukcham
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By : Pakinrichapbo

Since the beginning of the Naga Movement, power struggle among the nationalist groups dominated and contributed to wretched living conditions for the people along the way. The power struggle continues to this very day and it seems the Nationalist groups have now entered the last phase of power struggle. One perturbing factor is that as usual, the civilian populations would play along by choosing sides among the numerous armed nationalist groups.
Throughout the various stages of this power struggle among the nationalist groups, some state politicians from the past and present had played a vital role and some continues to play along. The outcome of this power struggle will show what role they have played: Whether in building or in destroying the fabric of the Naga society.
This article attempts to present a brief summary of this power struggle, its main issues involved touching on the outcome of the past power struggles and the possible outcome. We can broadly categorize three phase of the power struggle.
First phase of the power struggle (1946-1963)
In the early period of the Naga National Council (NNC), the power struggle centered on the contention between the extremist groups and the moderates groups within the NNC on the issue of autonomy or on its nature of relation with Indian Union and creation of fully independent Naga Nation. The outcome of the first phase of power struggle created irreconcilable differences between the extremists and the moderates, forcing the moderates to work for the creation of the Nagaland Statehood, and the rejection of the Nagaland statehood by the nationalist in the extremist camp (For further reading, page 150, “Nagas Imbroglio” by Charles Chasie).
Second phase of the power struggle (1975-1997)
The second phase of the power struggle centered on the issue of the 1975 Shillong Accord, where the said accord bitterly divided the nationalists’ camp into supporters of the Accord and the nationalist groups who condemn it. The consequence unleashed post-signing of the accord led to the formation of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980 that later split into two rival factions namely the NSCN-IM and NSCN-K in 1988. According to the source of one renowned Indian Journalist, one of the main reason behind the split was the differences among the top leaders of NSCN on the issue of starting peace talk with the Government of India whereas International Swedish Journalist Birtil Lintner in his book “Land of Jade: A journey from India through Northern Burma to China” and in his article titled Nagaland: The Forgotten Frontier, published in  The Irrawady Magazine, November 2014 edition says evil of tribal rivalry and the Nagas from Myanmar simply tired of being treated as  serfs by their Indian cousins, drove them out of the area. Post-NSCN split, violent factional clashes became a daily routine for nearly three decades where NSCN-IM emerged to be the largest and most powerful groups among the different armed factions. Quoting from the essay titled, Nagaland: descent into chaos, (The Hindu, dated 23.01.2014) authored by Shri. R. N. Ravi, Retired Special Director, Intelligence Bureau, former Interlocutor and Incumbent Governor of Nagaland, “over 1,800 Nagas have been killed in some 3000 fratricidal clashes since the beginning of the ceasefire (1997-2013). Contrast it with the violence during the 17 years preceding the ceasefire (1980-96) that took a toll of some 940 Naga lives in 1,125 clashes mostly with the security forces”
Final phase of the power struggle1997-2020
Apart from the violent factional clashes, some of the remarkable developments that took place between 1997-2020 were the formation of new factions (in addition to existing ones)  , the signing of 3rd August 2015 Framework Agreement between NSCN IM and GOI; the sudden unification of six Naga armed factions christening under the umbrella term ‘Naga National Political Groups’ (NNPG) in 2016, at present total number rose to seven factions after the latest entry of NSCN K (Khango Group); the signing of ‘Agreed Position’ between GOI and NNPGs on 17th November 2017; the emergence of Nagaland Tribal Council (NTC) as a leading public organization also the brain behind the formation of  NNPGs; the tactical sidelining of Naga Hoho, Naga Student Federation (NSF), and the Naga Mother Association (NMA), which was indeed a master stroke by the former interlocutor during his routine consultation with tribal bodies and civil societies there by reducing the influence of the said organizations in Nagaland.
On the other hand, the loss of status of the age-old organizations seem to be a boon for the NTC, as all Nagaland based tribal bodies appears to back the NTC on paper (as a test of their loyalty is yet to be proven). Furthermore, the unsettled age-old differences between Zeliangrong organizations and Naga Nationalists group starting with NNC continues, as evident by the skirmish between the NSCN-IM and Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF). Such domestic developments have pushed the Naga nationalists groups in to the final phase of power struggle under the banner of the NSCN-IM bloc and NNPGs bloc. We can only wait and watch when the final showdown will take place before or after the GOI and NNPGs decides to go ahead with implementation of the final agreement as the Nagas are still alien to the concept of peaceful disagreements. In such suspense, one needs to reflect on the phrase “It is now sign or lose it all. Peace or war” which is the ending lines in Sudeep Chakravarti’s essay “When push for Naga peace deal turn to shove” (LiveMint dated 12.03.2020).

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