Nagaland’s Thuingaleng Muivah has headed the often violent movement for Naga sovereignty for decades now. As General Secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Isak-Muivah (NSCN I-M) faction, Muivah led a violent battle for a sovereign Naga state before entering into a ceasefire agreement with Government of India in 1997. Since then the talks are on for a ‘Greater Nagalim’ between the government and the Naga rebels led by Muivah.
In August 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the signing of the historic framework agreement which would lead towards the Naga Accord. But close to four years the agreement remains shrouded in mystery and the Naga groups are growing restless.
Muivah said ‘the people in Nagaland are anxious as a final political settlement is a long-pending issue. Given the dynamic political landscape of the country and the new challenges it brings, the Naga leader believes that in political matters one cannot expect things to conclude logically. He went on to warn that‘We have stood our ground for more than 70 years now and tomorrow also we will stand together and will never surrender our history and land on any ground.”
The NSCN (I-M) general secretary claims he understands that the Prime Minister has ‘his own obligations’ but says “Let him also appreciate our difficulties, then things will be alright and we can come closer to each other,”
“We understand that there are various situations faced by the Indian side and they have made efforts to understand that sovereignty lies with the Nagas and the unique history is clear, so pressing on these things will have to be settled logically,” says Muivah.
The movement for Naga sovereignty started in 1946, with the Naga National Council (NNC) with AZ Phizo as its founding father. In 1980, the group split. Thuingaleng Muivah, Isak Chishi Swu and SS Khaplang parted ways to form the NSCN, opposed to the NNC’s signing of Shillong Accord.
Eight years later, the NSCN too split in a violent parting of ways. Isak (Swu) and Muivah formed the NSCN-IM, while Khaplang gave his own name to the faction, the NSCN-K.
Muivah’s NSCN-IM signed the Naga Peace Accord with the government in August 2015 but the Khaplang faction of the outfit, however, continues to fight the Indian forces.
The NSCN-IM has not fought the Indian forces since 1997. However, the ceasefire has not meant peace. The NSCN(IM) cadres allegedly continued to train, patrol, procure arms, recruit men and remain involved in violent turf battles with Khaplang and other breakaway Naga rebel factions.
With the demise of IM founder Isak Chishi Swu in 2016, the faction was short of top leadership for almost three years. In January 2019, a consensus was reached and the faction appointed Qhehezu Tuccu as its chairman and Tongmeth Konyak as its vice-chairman.
Muivah while talking about the Accord goes back to the days of India’s first Prime Minister, “When Nehru was there he never allowed Nagas to be independent even if the heaven falls and the whole country crashes into pieces or whether there is bloodshed. He declared it with so much pride as if he is the beginning and end of the world.”
Although forwarding the Naga agenda under the current government faces its own friction, he doesn’t seem to have given up hope.
“We are not lost, we have our homeland, we have our rights, and we cannot sacrifice our land. At last the Indian Govt said your history and integration of Naga areas is the right of the Naga people by virtue of its history. They have admitted this and it is written,” he asserted.
The Naga leader says he is ready to face challenges towards attaining their goal but declares that the Indian government isn’t stepping up the process.
“The problem is not with us but with the Indian leaders,” Muivah said, adding that the Naga’s do not exist only to keep pleasing the Indians or the former colonialists.