Nagaland Issue

Nagaland Issue

This article deals with the ‘Nagaland Issue.’ This is part of our series on ‘Internal Security’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Naga people are a conglomeration of several tribes inhabiting the North Eastern part of India (Nagaland, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh) and north-western Burma. They belong to Indo-Mongoloid race. As of 2012, the state of Nagaland officially recognizes 17 Naga tribes. 

Prominent Naga tribes include Poumai, Sumi, AngamiAo, Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Liangmai, Lotha, Pochury, Rongmei, Zee and Mao. The language of the Nagas differs from each tribe and even from one village to another.

Greater Nagalim

Nagalim is the region carved out by integrating all Naga-inhabited contiguous areas under one administrative umbrella. It includes Nagaland along with several districts of Assam, Arunachal, Manipur and a large tract of Myanmar. The map of “Greater Nagalim” has about 1,20,000sq km, while the state of Nagaland consists of 16,527 sq km.

Nagaland Issue

Timeline in Naga Struggle

1826 Britishers annexed Assam.
1881 Naga hill became a part of British India.
1918 The root of the conflict can be traced back to 1918 in the formation of the ‘Naga Club’ by 20 members of the Naga French Labour Corp, who had served in World War I. The wartime knowledge motivated the few who had come in contact with the European battlefield to organize themselves as distinct ethnic political entity.  
1929 The club submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929, stating that the people of Naga areas and of mainland India had nothing in common. Therefore, it would benefit both to stay separate and form their own political entity as and when the British left India.    
1946 The club was further reinforced with the formation of the Naga National Council (NNC) under A.Z Phizo, a charismatic leader of the Angami tribe.  
Phizo had been trained by the British, especially Major General Wingate, during World War II on the Burma Front against Japanese forces & he utilized knowledge to impart training in guerrilla warfare to NNC members.    
1947 – Nine-Point Agreement, known as the Akbar Hydari Agreement, was signed between NNC leaders and the Governor of Assam, Sir Akbar Hydari, on June 29 1947. The Agreement gave the Nagas rights over their land and executive and legislative powers but within the ambit of the Indian Constitution. 
Phizo rejected the Agreement. On August 14 1947, the NNC led by Phizo declared independence.   
1952 Naga Federal Government and Naga Federal Army formed, which were involved in violent clashes with the Indian state.   
1950s, 1960s and 1970s The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were tumultuous in Naga history with the rise of militancy coupled with the state’s military response propelled by acts like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958, amended in 1972.   
1963 The Union Government made efforts for peace, resulting in the grant of statehood to Nagaland in 1963 and the establishment of a peace mission in 1964.   
1975 The loss of bases in East Pakistan in 1972, with the emergence of a new nation-Bangladesh, as well as the constant pressure from Indian security forces, motivated the NNC under Z. Huire to sign  Shillong Accord, under which Nagas accepted the Indian Constitution.
The Shillong Accord, however, repeated the tragic story of the 9 Point Agreement as it split the Naga rebel movement. The Shillong Accord was the proximate cause for forming the original unified National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).   
1980 Some radical leaders rejected the accord and formed the Nationalist Social Council of Nagaland (NSCN).
1988 Due to intense differences with existing leadership, Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah formed NSCN (Isak Muivah) or NSCN (IM) on January 31 1988.
It was followed by the further spilt of the S. S. Khaplang-led faction and the formation of the NSCN (Khaplang), named after its leader.    
1990s NSCN(IM) becomes the largest insurgent outfit in Nagaland, demanding Greater Nagalim.   
1997 NSCN(IM) signs ceasefire. This ceasefire has been in place till now.  
2001 NSCN (K) (Khaplang) signs ceasefire.  
2012 A new NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) group was formed as the NSCN (K) breakaway faction and is at war against the Indian state.   
2015 NSCN (K) also breaks ceasefire  
Aug 2015 Naga Peace Accord was signed with NSCN (IM). No details are out yet, but NSCN (IM) ‘s demands include
1. Recognition of unique Naga History
2. Creation of Greater Nagalim consisting of all the Naga inhabiting areas in India
3. Recognition of a separate flag for the Naga areas

According to the statement given by the Governor to Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs, the Peace Accord has accepted the demand for recognition of unique Naga history. But there is no provision regarding touching the boundaries of Indian states. Instead, a special arrangement will be made for Nagas residing outside the state of Nagaland.

Main Insurgent Groups

1. NSCN (Isak-Muivah) or NSCN (IM)

  • It was formed in 1988 by Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah.
  • It is the most important faction of NSCN. 
  • Aim: To establish a greater Nagaland based on the Maoist ideology of the principle of socialism and equitable economic development for the people.
  • Its major source of funding is drug trafficking and financial support from ISI. Apart from that, they run a parallel government in their area of influence and levy a sort of tax on the businesses. 
  • A ceasefire agreement has been signed between NSCN (IM) and the Government of India since 1997. It was also involved in a peace dialogue with the Indian government, culminating in the Naga Peace Accord of August 2015. 
  • But NSCN (IM), which views itself as the sole representative of the Naga people in peace dialogue, is being increasingly threatened on its home turf by the NSCN (Khole and Kitovi) faction.  
    • While NSCN (Khaplang) is a significant threat to the NSCN (IM) as a rival armed actor, its influence in terms of social legitimacy in Naga-inhabited areas in India has been limited at best since its Chairman Khaplang belongs to Myanmar. 
    • The Khole-Kitovi faction is a real challenge to the NSCN (IM) ‘s sphere of influence, given that both leaders are from Nagaland. 

2. NSCN (Khaplang) or NSCN (K)

  • It is the second most important faction. 
  • It is based in Myanmar and is very active in Indian Naga-inhabited regions.
  • Although a ceasefire was signed between NSCN (K) and the Indian government in 2001, NSCN(K) unilaterally broke the ceasefire in 2015 and carried out an attack on Indian forces, killing 20 soldiers. 
  • They have kept away from talks with the Indian government.