The word Naga is the collective name given to many tribes who traced there descend to a common ancestor. Their ancestral homeland, Nagalim, lies in the northwest corner of the Southeast Asia landmass. It is bounded in the East by Burma, North by China and in the West and South by India. The country is made up of many hill ranges, and is known for its rich bio-diversity.
The present population of 3.5 million Nagas are spread out in several thousand villages over a 120,000sq.Km land area. Many villages have developed into towns/cities ranging from 5000 to 200,000 inhabitants.
Makhrai-Rabu-Khyafii [Makhel] a Mao Naga village in present day Manipur [India] is rich in historical symbols left behind by ancestors and, these are still treated by the Nagas as sacred symbols of their common descent. Among the symbols are, a tall stone monolith called Tamratu, the stone of dispersal; three small monoliths called Linotu representing, Tiger, Man and Spirit (flora and fauna, human society and the spiritual world); and a pear tree, called, Chetebu, their ancestors planted.
Nurtured and protected by rolling hills, for thousands of years Nagas lived under village council systems, free from foreign aggression. In the eighteenth century, however, with the coming of modern arms, outside forces began to threaten their freedom. At the closing of the nineteenth century, approximately a third of Nagalim was under British control through Assam and Manipur.
Thus, like many others in the region, Nagas went through a period of British rule. However, Britain did not extend its colonial administrative system into Naga areas, and their Hindu vassalages – Ahom, Cachar and Manipur- could not assimilate the Nagas. Laws passed by British India or the Assemblies under the 1919 Indian Home Rule and the Government of India, Act 1935 were not applicable to the Naga areas. The Naga-areas in Manipur, referred to as "tribal areas", remained excluded from the control of the Manipur State Darbar- " Manipur State, of course, has its own tribal areas excluded from the administration of the Darbar, and most of these tribes would prefer not to come under the direct control of the Darbar as yet", stated F.C. Bourne, Governor of Assam, in his 6 June 1946 report to the Vice-Roy and Governor General of India.
Apparently, this was in recognition of the fundamental differences underlying the social and cultural practices between Hindu and Naga societies. For instance, the Nagas egalitarian communal social structure differed greatly from the stratified caste system of Hindu society. Britain understood the futility of trying to impose a feudal bureaucratic governance system on the Nagas and instead chose to recognise Naga village councils as legitimate [Representative] authorities.
The other Naga areas on which India has subsequently laid claim including Tuesang and Mon areas (made part of Nagaland State in 1964) and those in the 'State of Arunachal' or 'Arunachal Pradesh' were still free from external rule at the time of Britain's departure from South Asia. They were recognized as such by His Majesty's Government. British forces reached some of these lands as early as the 1910s. However, there was no regular contact between them until the middle of 1930s. Britain's Foreign Department came to refer to these lands (this part of Nagalim and the rest of present Arunachal state) commonly as the "North East Frontier Tracts".
In 1929, when Britain began preparations to leave Asia, Naga Club (the earliest Naga organization formed by school educated Nagas in 1918) made it known to Britain that Hindu and Muslim based societies had very little in common with Naga society. Further, one hates the Naga for taking pork and the other for taking beef. It was clearly impossible for them to live together in harmony; and Nagalim should be left on its own.
As part of the arrangement for the transfer of power, Britain brought the Interim Government of India and the Naga National Council [NNC] to work out the terms of their relationship after British withdrawal. In June 1947 the Government of India and the NNC reached The Nine Points Agreement. The Agreement envisaged a Protected State in Nagalim under NNC with India as the Guardian Power for ten years after which the Nagas were free to decide their future.
The Indian Constituent Assembly, through mental acrobatics, arrived at the conclusion that The Nine Points Agreement means "district autonomy within the Indian Constitution to be implemented unilaterally by India ['… The Naga National Council's agreement with Sir Hydari Akbar and Shri Bordoloi… came up before the Constituent Assembly, or rather before the Special Committee of the Constituent Assembly. All the six Schedules attached to the Constitution were largely drawn up with that agreement in view…If it is felt that the six Schedules do not go far enough, it is open to Parliament to amend them whenever it likes', Nehru stated during debate on the Naga Hills situation in the Lok Sabha, 23 August, 1956 ]".
India made preparations to occupy Nagalim by force. When this was brought to Gandhi's attention on 19 July 1947, he declared that the Nagas had every right to be independent of India if they choose to do so. Further, he declared that he would oppose India with his life if it decides to take Nagalim by force.
Subsequently, NNC announced its decision to declare Nagalim independent on 14 August 1947 and communicated it to the United Nations, Britain, the Dominion /Interim Government of India, and the Commonwealth Relations Office.
India disregarded the announcement for independence calling the NNC, "the voice of the misguided few". India turned down Naga's invitation to hold referendum; and also refused to respect the out come of the Plebiscite [99.9% voted for independence] organized by the Nagas themselves on 16 May 1951. Instead, India sent its armed forces to destroy, by any means, the material and spiritual basis of Naga peoples' independence.
NNC set up the Federal Government of Nagaland in March 1956 with a military wing to drive out Indian forces. In the next three months, the Naga army drove out Indian forces from Nagalim barring a few points. India brought in more than a hundred thousand troops in re-enforcement and occupied Nagalim. Between 1958 and 1959, the occupation army rounded up tens of thousands of Nagas and forced them into concentration camps built across the Naga Hills. Many perished in these concentration camps from water contamination and lack of food.
In 1964, at the intervention of Bertrand Russell and Rev. Michael Scott [an old friend of Gandhi] India agreed to a cease-fire for peaceful settlement. However, the talks broke off, in 1967, without an agreement.
In NEFA, India launched an all out attempt to inculcate Indian nationalism by converting the people to Hinduism. An Indian Hindu organization in charge of the programme was given 99 years logging lease of the timber rich NEFA forests to generate fund for the work. Hindus from central India were brought in as teachers and administrators and introduced Hinduism in the school as a basic subject. However, teaching of Christianity was strictly prohibited as "foreign religion" in NEFA. This included prohibition of Christian parents narrating Bible stories to their children or observing Christian burial. Access to education facilities was denied to Christian children and their elders were discriminated in employment. State apparatus was used freely to destroy Christian institutions and to persecute Christians.To fully legalize this practice a 'Private Bill" entitled "freedom of religion" was moved in the Indian Parliament in 1978. But the Indian middle class saw it, as a threat to the "secular" character of the Indian State and the bill was thrown out. It also led to slackening of the "program to indigenise Hinduism in NEFA".
In 1975 India imposed a surrender pact, called the Shillong Accord, on some of the Federal Government leaders who had grown alienated from the people. However, the resistances forces regrouped again under the NNC General Secretary, Th.Muivah and Isak Chishi, Foreign Secretary in the Federal Government of Nagaland. They subsequently formed NSCN (the National Socialist Council of Nagalim) in 1980.
Until the arrival of the Independent India, Burmese leaders did not show interest in Nagalim. However, in 1953, the Indian Prime Minister, Nehru brought Burmese Prime Minister, U Nu to Kohima, a Naga centre, and began the process of dividing Nagalim between the two nations.
In recent times, the Military Regime in Burma has been active in several parts of Eastern Nagalim pillaging the villages, laying land mines in and around the village after setting fire to the houses, setting up military bases and imposing ban on Christianity and destroying churches, forcibly convert young Nagas to Buddhism.
With NSCN in the leadership, the Naga national movement quickly gained tremendous strength. By the middle of 1980s India's forces, both military and political, began to suffer set backs, one after the other. It brought India's leaders to the realization that the military actions could not solve the problem. India began to consider non-military options and in 1995 invited NSCN to begin political negotiations at the highest level without conditions at a mutually agreed third country. After two years of behind the scene preparations, they announced on 25 July 1997 their decision to enter a cease-fire agreement effective from 1st August 1997.
The Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland entered a cease-fire agreement on 1st August 1997 to begin political negotiations at the highest level without conditions at a mutually agreed third country. The talks encountered innumerable difficulties. However, both sides have showed increasing confidence in the peace-process. In a joint communiqué with the NSCN (Amsterdam, 11 July 2002), India recognized the unique history and situation of the Nagas. Further more, the Government of India renewed the invitation of the Prime Minister to the leaders of the NSCN to come to India to expedite the peace dialogue.