Naga movement: A brief history

Nagas were once headhunters, as they used to cut off the heads of the enemies and preserve them as trophies.

Salome Phelamei

Scattered in the north-eastern part of India, Nagas were once headhunters, as they used to cut off the heads of the enemies and preserve them as trophies. But with the advent of Christianity and education, the Nagas-comprising more than 30 tribes have evolved a rich culture and tradition.

Since the Naga tribes have been known for their pride and independent identity, the process of politicization led to the urge for creation of separate land for Nagas. The Separatist Movement can be traced back to 1918, with the founding of Naga Club in Kohima by a group of erudite Nagas. The Club tendered a memorandum before the
Simon Commission which demanded for exclusion of Nagas from the proposed
constitutional reform in British administration in India.

Although their plea was unsuccessful, the nature of gripes took a drastic change with
the emerging of Angami Zapu Phizo, who was considered as one of the most vibrant
leaders of Naga separatist movement. During India`s struggle for Independence, Phizo had fought on the side of the Indian National Army led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose for Japan against the Allies.

In 1946, the Naga Club was renamed as Nagaland National Council (NNC). The NNC then asked for as separate sovereign political geography comprising Naga
inhabited areas of Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myammar (Burma), thus marking the beginning of political conflict between Nagas and the Government of India.

On 14th of August 1947, the NNC under Phizo`s initiation declared independence of
Naga region, thereby resulting in his arrest in 1948 on the charges of instigating a rebellion. But, he was released in 1950, and became the president of NNC. In 1952,
he met Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, and pleaded for Naga
Independence, which was rejected. Disappointed with his talks with Nehru, he turned to armed rebellion to sway the Indian government.

However, the Indian Army rallied to quash the rebellion, while Phizo escaped to East
Pakistan (Bangladesh) and then to London, where he remained and persisted to support the secessionist movement in Nagaland, until his death in 1990.

In 1975, an agreement known as the Shillong Accord was signed between the Indian Government and the NNC. But, some of the NNC hardcore militants were disappointed with the pact, leading to breakage among the armed cadets. This led to the formation of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland or the NSCN on January 31, 1980 by Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S S Khaplang.

Lamentably, differences shelled out within the outfit later, and on April 30, 1988, the
group split into two factions- the NSCN (IM), led by Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, and the NSCN (Khaplang), led by Khaplang. Although their philosophies differ, their goals remain the same as both the outfits are fighting for the establishment of a
`Greater Nagaland` comprising all Naga-inhabited areas within India and Myanmar.


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