The Naga Issue


North-east India again hit the national consciousness last week for the same reason it has been doing for the past 50 years.

Indian security forces killed three people belonging to the Naga tribe inside Manipur, along the border of Manipur and Nagaland. And the incident took place over the same issue it usually does in this region: assertion of Naga identity.

The immediate spur was the proposed visit after 40 years by Naga insurgent leader Thuigaleng Muivah to his native village Somdel in Manipur. The state government saw in the visit an attempt by the Naga tribe to drag up the old issue of bifurcation of Manipur and the creation of Greater Nagaland, to comprise all of the areas dominated by the Naga tribe.

The state of Manipur is divided into hills and valleys. The hills are dominated by various Naga and non-Naga tribes, while the valleys are inhabited by the majority of Meite community, which practices the Hindu religion.

There has been deep distrust between tribal and non-tribal people in the state. Various Naga tribes, the second-largest group in the state, feel neglected by the state government, which hasn’t developed the hilly areas the same way it has developed the valley. Meanwhile, the tribal groups aren’t given adequate socio-political representation in the state. As a result, Nagas want a separate state or the merger of their area with other Naga dominated areas, like Nagaland or the creation of a Greater Nagaland comprising all the areas in the north-east dominated by the Naga tribes.

This has been one of the main reasons why the peace process between the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and the central government hasn’t made much headway since 1997, when the Naga group agreed a ceasefire with the Indian government.

Insurgency has been the bane of India’s north-east since independence in 1947. The Indian state has taken to using force to try to deal with the problem, while political initiatives in the region have been few and far between.

The failure to find agreement is a significant one on the part of successive governments that in more than six decades of democracy have failed to ensure all sections of society in the region are brought into political mainstream. In part as a consequence, the region’s contribution to national growth is almost negligible.

If India is to make progress and emerge as an important international player it will need to sort out its internal contradictions. The state needs to show flexibility to deal with its marginalized tribals and demonstrate political maturity in recognizing the uniqueness of the tribal identity.

If Naxals are the greatest internal threat to the country (as they are according to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh), the insurgency in the north-east is the greatest challenge to national integration.

September 23, 2013 at 03:35

I agree with you

Amo Konyak
December 28, 2010 at 16:33

Yes, we demand for a seperate state in Nagaland. The present Government in Nagaland is highly influenced by the communal NSCN-IM. We want complete peace and do not want to live with this insurgent group. The present Govt is highly communal. In Nagaland, we can’t express our desire. There is no freedom. But, we do not want to create communal tensions with our neighbours and snatch their territorial areas which are the objectives of the bloody insurgent to happen. In Nagaland, we can’t use our rights as they are seized by the communal based Nagaland Government and terrorist NSCN-IM. We also sincerely apologize to all other North Eastern sisters and brothers for the grievances caused by the NSCN-IM. Please help us to seperate from the communal based Government of Nagaland and NSCN-IM’s torture. Please help us to free from the threats and unbearable torture of terrorist NSCN-IM. Please help us to form an equality based prosperous “Frontier Nagaland”.

Nagaland Independence
May 11, 2010 at 16:50

Let Nagaland be a free independent country.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief