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North-East consolidation efforts


GS1 -Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.


Context

  • Politics in contemporary India is witnessing the construction of counter-narratives to the dominant narrative and the appropriation of public figures to make integration in the modern nation-state complete.
  • Such a process is visible not only at the national level, but also at the regional and local levels.
  • Like the mainland, India’s North East is also in the grip of the politics of appropriation and construction of counter-narratives.
  • In Assam, counter-narratives have been constructed to appropriate the Sankardev cult; in Meghalaya, the Sen Khasis, an aboriginal tribal group; and in Mizoram, the Brus, a displaced minority tribal community which settled in the six relief camps of Tripura, as parts of the larger mainstream fold.
  • However, the most glaring instances of appropriation and counter-narratives are found in Tripura and Nagaland.

In Tripura


  • In Tripura, the BJP is engaged in the process of appropriating Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Debbarma Manikya Bahadur into the mainstream fold.
  • Bir Bikram Kishore belonged to the Manikya dynasty, which ruled Tripura for more than 300 years. He was born on 19 August 1908 and died on 17 May 1947, the last king of Tripura.
  • The Kings of Tripura adopted the “manikya” title and shifted their capital to Udaipur (formerly Rangamati) on the banks of the River Gomti in South Tripura in the 14th century. This was their most glorious period and their power and fame was even acknowledged by the Mughals, who were their contemporaries in North India.
  • In 1871, the British Indian government appointed an agent to assist the Maharaja in the administration. During this period the capital of the kingdom was shifted to Agartala, in West Tripura, the present state capital in the early part of 19th century.
  • The charge of appropriation is strengthened by the recent decision of the union government to install a 184-foot bronze statue of the king. In fact, such appropriation comes in the light of the BJP’s indictment of both the Congress and the left in the state not having given due recognition to the king’s contribution to Tripura’s development.
  • It was Bir Bikram Kishore, king of Tripura between 1923 and 1947, who took the final decision of merging Tripura with independent India.
  • Commonly described as the architect of modern Tripura, the king initiated land reforms and reserved land for the indigenous Tripuris in the late 1930s, and set up schools, colleges and an airport.
  • The king also played a critical role in the formation of the present Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC). However, the premature death of Bir Bikram Kishore engulfed Tripura in political uncertainty.
  • As his son, Kirit Bikram Kishore was too young to become the king, Kanchan Prava Devi, his mother and Bir Bikram Kishore’s widow was forced to become the regent. In fact, it was she who signed the agreement of accession on 13 August 1947, and on 15 October 1949 Tripura merged with the Indian Union.
  • On 19 September 2013, on the occasion of the golden jubilee of the Tripura Legislative Assembly, speaking at a seminar in Agartala, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar revealed that the members of Tripura’s Manikya Royal family under Bir Bikram Kishore wanted to merge with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  • However, sensing the public sentiments, before his death, he expressed his decision to merge Tripura with the Indian Union. He also revealed that Bir Bikram Kishore had planned its integration with Assam.
  • It has to be remembered that the States Reorganisation Commission constituted in 1953 proposed to merge Tripura with Assam. However, the proposal was finally dropped and Tripura became a union territory on 1 November 1956, achieving statehood in 1972.
  • The BJP’s appropriation of Bir Bikram Kishore can be seen in the larger context of the social composition of and politics in Tripura.
  • The tribal population constitutes around 33% of the state’s total population and has a history of recurrent clashes between indigenous tribals and the Bengalis.
  • The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) has been demanding a separate state called Twipra for the tribal population by carving out the TTAADC from Tripura.

In Nagaland


  • The glorification of Naga spiritual leader and freedom fighter “Rani” Gaidinliu by constructing a memorial museum-cum-library in Kohima can be seen as a step in this direction.
  • Gaidinliu (1915–93) fought against the British rule and was imprisoned in various jails in the North East. She composed over 300 songs, including hymns, patriotic songs and poems. Gaidinliu, who was described by the British administration as the “terror of North East” was involved in an armed struggle against it.
  • In fact, Jawaharlal Nehru was fond of Gaidinliu and called her “Rani” because she took an anti-Naga stand in the Naga self-determination movement.
  • The Naga agitation was, in fact, the first movement that sprang up in India after independence and tested Nehru’s ability as a nation-builder.
  • Gaidinliu, who belonged to the Zeliangrong community, also resisted the conversion of Nagas to Christianity and defended traditional Naga animism called Heraka.
  • It is estimated that, today, there are around 20,000 Heraka followers scattered all over Nagaland, Manipur and Assam. It is said that the British administration divided them into three states—Manipur, Assam, Nagaland (then Naga Hills)—to weaken the protest of Zeliangrong community.
  • The Zeliangrong Heraka Association (ZHA) opposes the “Westernisation” of Naga culture, and it protects the indigenous religion, culture and language. It is also critical of Western hedonism and consumerism and strives to reassert communitarian values.
  • Gaidinliu campaigned to bring indigenous Naga groups such as Rongmei, Zemi and Liangmai tribes under the ZHA to save them from religious conversion to Christianity.
  • In December 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nagaland during the famous Hornbill festival, which coincided with the conclusion of Gaidinliu’s birth centenary celebrations (26 January 2014–26 January 2015). Modi addressed the people of Nagaland and emphasised Naga pride. He was wearing a Naga traditional dress at the public meeting. He ended his speech with “Kuknalim” (victory to the land) instead of “Jai Hind” (victory to India).
  • The ZHA submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding that their leader Gaidinliu must be honoured and recognised. Their other demands included the minting of new coins to commemorate the birth centenary of Gaidinliu; opening of a central university in Nagaland in her name and setting up of a department dedicated to the promulgation of the “eternal religion and eternal culture of Nagas;” renaming the airport as “Rani Gaidinliu Airport;” and installing her portraits in the Nagaland assembly, the offices of the chief minister, governor and other ministers. Subsequently, the centre released coins of ₹5 and ₹100 denominations with her image on them to commemorate her birth centenary.
  • Many Naga tribes however see Gaidinliu as anti-Naga and having betrayed the Naga national movement for a sovereign state.
  • Organisations such as the Angami Public Organisation opposed any move to glorify Gaidinliu.
  • The Nagas never recognised her as a spiritual leader and described Gaidinliu as an outsider anda cult leader who had opposed Naga nationalism and the advent of Christianity in the state.

Timeline of Naga history(Post WWI)

  • 1918: During WWI about 2000 Naga recruits fought for British along with rest of British Indian Soldiers. They felt alienated and feeling of Naga identity emerged. Naga Club was formed by 20 Naga members of French Labour Corps. This was the birth of Naga Nationalism. Their aim was to unite all the Naga tribes.
  • 1929: Submitted a memorandum to Simon Commission, stating that Naga areas has nothing to do with areas of mainland India.
  • 1946: All this time Nagas fought for their freedom against British separately. When it became clear that India will gain independence. Naga Nationalist Council(NNC)was formed by eight member including Angami Zapu Phizo(AZ Phizo). It was against the move to group Nagaland with Assam and Bengal.
  • Their voice was not heard by the sub-commissioner of the region initially. Later on, an agreement (Haidari Agreement) was reached between tribal leaders and governor of Assam.
  • But, the Naga people rejected it, because they considered that it did not had sufficient Legislative and Judicial powers. This was taken as ‘termination of the sovereignty’ by the NNC.
  • August 14, 1947: Under the leadership of hardline NNC leader AZ Phizo, Naga was declared as an independent region. Though Gandhiji assured the Naga leaders that he will be the first to be killed before any Naga is killed. But it didn’t worked.
  • 1947: India placed Nagaland in Assam administration as an autonomous region.
  • Feb 1950: NNC held a referendum and declared that Nagaland is independent. Later no accord could take place between Phizo and Nehru. [ In 1953, India’s Border treaty with Myanmar was declared as division of state by Phizo.]
  • 1955: Phizo declares armed insurgency. But, NNC breaks into factions and its influence declines, but rebel continued by many groups.
  • 1956: In January, Phizo got murdered another leader. Other Naga leaders asked for refuge form Indian Government. NNC collapsed completely as its support decreased drastically. Naga hills was declared as disturbed area by Indian government. In March Phizo formed “Naga Central Government”. Later he escaped to East Pakistan and then to London. He also accused Indian Army of human rights violations.
  • 1957: An agreement was reached between Naga leaders and the Indian government, creating a single separate region of the Naga Hills. The Tuensang frontier was united with this single political region, Naga Hills Tuensang Area (NHTA),and it became a Union territory directly administered by the Central government with a large degree of autonomy. But this was not satisfactory for the tribes and agitation and violence took place in the state. As a result AFSPA declared in 1958.
  • 1963:Nagaland was born as 16th state of India with Kohima as its capital. Elections held in 1964 and first democratically elected government lead the Nagaland legislative assembly. Naga peace mission was created and ceasefire was negotiated with various groups. It lasted till 1968.
  • 1975: Shillong peace accord. NNC decided to give up violence and accept Indian Constitution.
  • 1980: However, again, not all leaders were pleased with the accord and Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim(NSCN) was formed by Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu.
  • 1988: It later broke into 2 factions NSCN(K) formed by SS Khaplangand NSCN(I-M) being the older format.
  • 1997: NSCN(I-M) signed a ceasefire agreement.
  • 2001: NSCN(K) signed a ceasefire agreement.
    [Ceasefire was to follow an accord for Naga solution]
  • 2015: NSCN(K)broke the ceasefire and attacked an Indian army convoy. In retaliation, Army conducted a cross border raid in Myanmar and targets insurgents camps.
  • This was done with due permission from Myanmar. This also created tension between Myanmar and Khaplang faction, as Khaplang faction had signed similar peace agreements with Thein Sein government in Myanmar.
  • August 2015: An accord is signed between Govt. of India and NSCN(I-M) via Naga interlocutor R.N. Ravi. The details of the accord are not yet out, but it is clear that this is done to send a clear message to the Naga people that the government is serious toward their issue.
  • Government sources said that they have two months time to fix the nuts and bolts of the Nagaland peace accord.
  • Naga tribes are spread in Nagaland, parts of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The redrawing of the boundaries of these states might have been considered in the accord. But, CM of Manipur and Assam are against redrawing of boundaries or even giving autonomous region to Naga people in their respective states.

Border issue with Assam


  • Ever since Nagaland was carved out of Assam’s Naga Hills district in 1963, Nagaland has been demanding some portions that the hill state believes “historically” belongs to it.
  • The Nagaland government has been insisting that a 16-point agreement of 1960, which led to the creation of Nagaland, also included “restoration” of all Naga territories that had been transferred out of the Naga Hills after the British annexed Assam in 1826.
  • The Assam government’s stand is to maintain the boundary “constitutionally” as decided on December 1, 1963, when the hill state was created.

 How much land is under dispute, or has been encroached?

  • Assam and Nagaland share a 434-km boundary. Assam says Nagaland has been encroaching upon over 66,000 hectares in Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts. This includes over 42,000 hectares in Golaghat alone (the site of the recent trouble). The encroached area also includes over 80 per cent of reserved forests.
  • Assam says Nagaland has set up three civil subdivisions on Assam territory. Nagaland, on the other hand, insists that more tracts under Assam “occupation” belong to Nagaland.
  • The NSCN(IM), incidentally, wants the entire Assam tract south of the Guwahati-Dibrugarh railway track in these four districts in “Greater Nagalim”.

 How frequent is border friction?

  • There has been a series of violent incidents since Nagaland was created. Two major incidents took place in 1979 and 1985, leaving at least 100 persons dead between them.
  • On January 5, 1979, 54 Assam villagers were killed in a series of attacks by armed men from Nagaland in Chungajan, Uriamghat and Mikirbheta of Golaghat district, while over 23,500 persons fled to relief camps.
  • In June 1985, a major flare-up at Merapani, also in Golaghat, left 41 persons dead on the Assam side. These included 28 Assam Police personnel. In both incidents, Assam claimed that the attackers included Nagaland Police personnel.

 What efforts have been made to resolve this?

  • The two states have held a series of meetings at various levels, including that of the chief ministers.
  • The Centre, for its part, in August 1971 appointed K V K Sundaram, then chairman of the Law Commission, as adviser in the MHA for matters of Assam-Nagaland. Sundaram suggested a joint survey of the border, which Nagaland did not agree to.
  • The two states, however, signed four interim agreements in 1972 to maintain status quo. On January 25, 1979, the prime minister wrote to the Nagaland chief minister to take firm action against miscreants on the Nagaland side of the boundary.
  • In March 1981, the union home minister asked both chief ministers to resolve the issue through discussion while strictly adhering to basic constitutional aspects.
  • In 1988, the Assam government filed a title suit in the Supreme Court to determine and delineate the constitutional boundary of each state.
  • In September 2006, the apex court set up a three-member local commission headed by a retired SC judge to identify the boundary. The commission has submitted its report to the court, but a final decision has not yet been made.

Questions

  1. What are the faultlines which hindered the consolidation of India is still not complete, particularly in the north east, even after 70 years of independence?
  2. Discuss the internal security problem of Nagaland. What steps have been taken to address the issue?
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