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The surge of Separatism in Nagaland and Manipur, threatening India’s Union Status

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By Aroosa Hafeez, TON Research Section

After Partition, north-east part has been India’s unrelenting insurgency threat. The intensity and focus of the Indian separatist movements have changed over the year. But the battle cry of Indiahas remained a popular option with the ethnicities of the north-east. Today Nagaland and Manipur conflicts are one of the world’s longest running conflicts. These separatist movementshave come to greatly challenge India's security and internal stability with the more rebellious groups demanding no less than secession from union of Indian state. The time-frame of the insurgency movements appears to have no limits. Since the early 1950's to the present day, there has been very limited break in the continuous growth of insurgency.

The root causes of the separatist movements of Northeast are to be found in many areas of political, social and economic realm. To a great degree, past also tosses significant light on the overall dissatisfaction and criticisms of the people towards the Indian Government. The deep seated grievances of the people with Indian government over the years, coupled with other factors has given rise to the innumerable problems and separatist movements today.

During British rule the north-east was almost isolated from the events leading to independence. After independence the people of the northeast, mostly in Nagaland saw this as an opportunity to revert back to their old ways of independent living. People from these states never felt to be a part of India even under the British rule, and after independence, they saw no reason to be under the Indian government. Thus, when India attained independence, the tribal leaders raised the demand for autonomy to preserve. The threat perception to their culture and customs under Indian rule added significance with the imminent transfer of power to the new Indian government.

The Naga National Council (NNC) declared their independence before the British left India, but they were forcefully integrated into the republic of India in 1947. On 29 June 1947, Sir Akbar Hyderi, then Governor of Assam signed a 9-point agreement with the Naga moderates. In the said agreement the Nagas’ right to develop themselves freely was recognized. Clause 9 of the agreement stated that after a period of 10 years the NNC will be asked whether the agreement be extended or a new agreement arrived at. This clause was interpreted by Nagas as achievement of sovereignty whereas the Indian government interpreted it as the signing of new agreement with Indian Union. This is the root cause of the Naga conflict. The Indian government deployed military forces in the region in April 1956.

The ethnic conflict in Nagaland, in north-east India, is an ongoing conflict fought between the ethnic Nagas and the governments of India and Myanmar.The state has a strong ethnic mix, all communities are deeply committed to preserving their own cultural autonomy. Its people have also always tended to look towards eastin their search for cultural links.The predominant religion of Nagaland is Christianity. Thosepeople who migrated from Nagaland to different cities of India for better economic opportunities have reported frequent discrimination, while others feel alienated by the current Hindu nationalist government. This also contributed to the separatist movements in India. People of different religion other than Hindu, are fighting against the discrimination by the state which does not recognize the ground reality that Christians along with Muslims are still persecuted in the Indian society.

Delhi views Nagaland as a "disturbed area" and has kept the state under a draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The act extends wide-ranging powers to the army, including the use of force and arrests without warrants.Violence has been part of daily life for decades in Manipur, with a strong presence of the Indian military. Naga Hoho comprising various Naga tribes, has asked for removal of AFSPA from entire Nagaland.Indian government took its first steps toward resolving the dispute in 2015 by signing a peace accord with a Naga nationalist group called the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM).In August 2019, Modi government wanted to conclude talks with NSCN-IM and sign a final agreement to end the conflict within three months but a year has been passed and there is still no end in sight for the conflict. Tensions grew in July when the Indian army and paramilitary forces started cracking down on NSCN-IM soldiers.

Thuingaleng Muivah, the Chief of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NCNS), has said with no clouding of issue that “Ours is ours and there is theirs; we are not asking for anything from India as Nagas were never part of Indian Union, even under the British.”

He added “There will be only one choice, Nagas will have to stand their ground, we will never surrender our history to India, we have fought them before and if forced upon us, we will not surrender, sorry.”

On 29th Oct 2019 political leaders from the Indian state of Manipur said they were unilaterally declaring independence from India and forming a government-in-exile in Britain, a day before India’s 73rd Independence Day. The Naga Students Federation (NSF) declared independence by hoisting the Nagaland flag across the north eastern states as well as the Naga areas in Myanmar. Nagaland has also released its own National Anthem and declared Kohima as its capital.

In India today 135 Separatist Movement are present. So called biggest democracy failed to give basic rights to its own citizens.Despite promises of settlement, armed tension continues.The Indian government has denied self-determination in Kashmir as well, in accordance with United Nations resolutions for ever since partition. Manipur and Nagaland demands for greater autonomy and bringing Nagas of India into a single political entity, a demand which surely needs to be met with an equal amount of regard to both sides.

Delhi can't ignore the facts of the history of the Nagas, the most important one of which is that they had declared they were not a part of the map India inherited from the British. For this reason, the Nagaland and Manipurcontinues their struggle for separation from India. The Nagas are in continuous armed conflict against India to establish a sovereign independent state.

Naga’s distinct identity and culture along with its leadership will not compromise on anything less than a separate constitution and a separate flag. However, it will be interesting to see if Modi doctrine is able to deals with this daunting challenge or not.

India’s geographical lands, foreign policy, security handling, all are in varying crisis today. India seems to be a pale shadow of its former self. It will not be wrong in saying that India has now become the sick man of South Asia. Today it stands isolated in the region, its divisive policies, illegal occupationsand its erroneous thinking has markdownIndia in neighbour countries.

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