March 2, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether progress will be made this year on the Nagaland peace talks. We also look at the proposed improvement to life in Delhi, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Nagaland peace talks: Will there be progress this year?
2023 is a big year for Indian politics. Assembly elections in several states could be a preview of where parties and alliances stand going into the 2024 general elections. 178 seats are up for grabs in Tripura, Meghalaya, and Nagaland. We’re focussing on Nagaland, where peace and security are top of mind.
A couple of long-standing issues have yet to be resolved in the state. There are the ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party’s (NDPP) efforts to negotiate a peace deal with insurgent groups. There’s also the demand from several tribal groups for a separate state called Frontier Nagaland. Given how long these have been on the docket, the question is, will 2023 be the year where there’s progress on peace?
Angami Zapu Phizo was a fierce Naga rebel leader often called the Father of the Nagas. He rebelled against the Indian Union to form an independent Naga nation by integrating 3.5 million Nagas. That’s been his mission since before 1947. He wanted to unite territories scattered across the northeast and neighbouring Burma.
Phizo’s quest began when he requested Jawaharlal Nehru to exclude Naga Hills and the surrounding areas from the Union of India. At the time of independence, India was solidifying its boundaries. Phizo represented the Naga National Council (NNC), formed in 1946. Nehru denied his request, and the NNC declared Naga independence. 99.9% of the Nagas voted for a sovereign Nagaland in the 1951 Naga plebiscite. The Indian government didn’t recognise the vote.
Phizo fled the Naga Hills in 1956. He lived the rest of his life in exile in Britain. That didn’t stop him from trying to drum up support for his cause. Back home, the government enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) to help curb the insurgency. In 1963, Nagaland was formed as the 16th state.
With Phizo deceased, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), a breakaway of the NNC, shouldered his cause. They were unhappy with the NNC succumbing to government pressure and signing the Shillong Accord. Things turned violent in the 1990s. Some reports claimed 1,600 lives were lost during this period. For nearly two decades, there was relative peace thanks to a ceasefire agreement. Negotiations continued with successive governments spanning six prime ministers and parties and 80 rounds of talks.
There was a compromise in 2015 with the Framework Agreement. It stated the government and the NSCN recognised each other’s positions. While it wasn’t much progress, it was deemed an honourable solution. The deadline for a detailed peace accord ended on October 31, 2019. The NSCN-IM alleged the government misinterpreted the 2015 agreement.
Several issues are still undecided, and for some, the year ahead won’t bring much progress. The government is confident that with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm, there’ll be an all-round consensus. The results of the assembly elections could complicate matters.
VIEW: There’s reason to be optimistic
In December, Thuingaleng Muivah of the NSCN-IM left Delhi disappointed after not getting an audience with Modi. Despite several rounds of talks prior, progress has stalled. However, there is some hope on one issue at least – the demand for a separate Naga flag. The Nagas believed that the Delhi discussions resolved that issue. Whatever compromise was agreed upon for the flag is a reason to hope for a positive outcome.
Before the assembly polls, Home Minister Amit Shah said that peace talks are on the table. The Eastern Nagaland Peoples’ Organisation (ENPO), a tribal body, called for a boycott of the elections over their Frontier Nagaland demand. Shah told a rally that the ministry held positive talks with the group and promised an agreement would be implemented after the elections.
For his part, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio also exuded confidence in the peace talks. Addressing a rally recently, he said it’s the top issue for the NDPP-BJP government. He cited the 2015 agreement signed under Modi’s leadership and the revocation of the AFSPA from selected areas in the state as positive steps. Local activist Theja Therieh, speaking about Modi’s February 24 speech, welcomed his remarks on meeting with the Gaon Burra Federation.
COUNTERVIEW: No end to the deadlock in sight
For decades, governments and prime ministers have tried to broker a deal to no avail. For the groups on the ground, it’s often a case of one step forward, two steps back. For some, it remains a pipedream. While 2022 saw discussions, talks, and rhetoric, any comprehensive agreement remained elusive.
The NSCN-K Chairman Yung Aung criticised Naga political groups. He’s not hopeful of a solution and said the groups would trade Naga sovereignty for a meagre compromise. He’s clear on what the end should be – complete freedom. Anything less will be rejected. For him and the group, it’s not just about the future. It’s about the past injustices on generations of Nagas at the hands of the government.
Some believed the flag issue to be resolved, but the NSCN-IM saw it differently. “The Naga flag is a symbol of national pride and identity” is the caption on the January and February pages of its 2023 calendar. This and the constitution is non-negotiable. While several groups want to move forward with dialogue, the NSCN-IM isn’t budging. They want the flag, the constitution, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Manipur. The government will have to walk a tightrope. Giving in to demands for a separate state can open the floodgates in other states.
- How 2023 assembly polls in Northeast are a semifinal to 2024 general elections – Economic Times
- War and Peace: A Brief History Of The Naga Issue – Outlook
- A Tumultuous Journey of the NAGA Peace Process – Cornell Policy Review
- Will the New Year see the dawn of Naga peace? – Deccan Herald
- Naga peace accord: A tale of so near, yet so far – IndiaTV
- Naga flag, Constitution not negotiable’: NSCN-IM calendar asserts as peace talks in limbo – The Print
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) There will be significant progress on the Naga peace talks this year.
b) There won’t be much progress on the Naga peace talks this year.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Subtly But Surely, India’s Premier Colleges Still Enforce Caste Norms. I Saw it First Hand
For the Left:
Tripura, BJP surge in North East India and the Narendra Modi factor
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Nightlife to get a boost (New Delhi) – The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is planning to promote inclusive growth in the city by boosting its night economy infrastructure. This was discussed as part of a master plan recently approved by Delhi LG VK Saxena. The DDA is looking to collaborate with private players to develop the night economy in the city, including restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues. The agency is planning to create a roadmap for the development of night markets and cultural events, as well as improve the safety and security of the city’s streets after dark.
Why it matters: If executed properly, this move will help to create new job opportunities in the city, particularly for those who work in the hospitality and entertainment sectors. Additionally, it will provide residents as well as tourists with more options for entertainment and cultural activities after dark. The government is specifically targeting the areas of Connaught Place, Daryaganj, Chandni Chowk, Khan Market and Hauz Khas.
CSIR-IICT partners with NTPC (Telangana) – The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT) is partnering with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to develop green hydrogen produced through renewable energy. The partnership aims to promote research and development in the field of clean energy and to find ways to reduce carbon emissions.
Why it matters: The burning of fossil fuels is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, which have been identified as the primary cause of climate change. By developing alternative, sustainable energy sources, the partnership can help to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change. NTPC has already begun trials where they are using hydrogen to run buses in Leh. The partnership will also focus on developing hydrogen compressors, which are not available in the country and need to be imported.
Six vice-chancellors of state-run universities resign (West Bengal) – Vice-chancellors of six state-funded universities who had their extensions of service questioned by the former governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar, submitted their resignations to his successor CV Ananda Bose on Tuesday and were given a three-month extension with his approval. Dhankar had questioned whether the VCs’ terms should have been extended because the government had issued the directives without his consent.
Why it matters: On the grounds that the government had not followed UGC procedures, including obtaining the chancellor’s approval, a body of college teachers and researchers had filed a PIL in the high court contesting the extension of the tenure of the VCs of 24 state-aided universities, including those who went to Raj Bhavan on Tuesday. According to the PIL, the chancellor alone possesses the authority to nominate and reappoint vice-chancellors, so the state government cannot legally interfere in this matter. On October 11, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the high court that “allowing such acts would be antithetical to the rule of law.”
Gujarati to become mandatory in all schools (Gujarat) – The Gujarat Legislative Assembly has passed a bill making Gujarati language compulsory in primary schools in the state. The bill states that all primary schools, whether government or private, must teach Gujarati as a first language, and it will be mandatory for students to pass the Gujarati language exam to move to higher classes.
Why it matters: The bill stipulates that institutions that don’t abide by its rules will have their registrations cancelled. Gujarati will need to be added as a second language for Classes 1 through 8 at the institutions that are not currently teaching it beginning in the 2023–24 school year. The move raises questions about Gujarat’s language policy and its impact on education. While it can be seen as an attempt to promote cultural identity and cohesion, it can also impact students’ academic performance and future prospects.
Fire breaks out in school (Manipur) – The Sangeet Natak Akademi award-winning teacher and Kokborok language radio host Tarubala Debbarma urged Tripura’s young to protect the state’s tribal culture. President Droupadi Murmu presented Debbarma with an award for her contributions to the preservation of Tripura’s indigenous tribes’ traditional music and dance at an event in New Delhi.
Why it matters: While expressing her delight and gratitude on receiving the award from the President, Debbarma addressed the tribal youth to take involvement in and explore their rich culture. She talked about how her mother awoke her interest and love for her culture from a very young age and always made sure that she participated in all the folk events. She says that she left her permanent job at a bank to work as a radio jockey for All India Radio where she hosted shows in Kokborok language, because she just could not imagine a life without her culture. Stories like this inspire us to form deeper connections with our own heritage as well as take pride in it.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
117.84 billion – India consumed a total of 117.84 billion units of power in the month of February.