Naga Struggles for Sovereignty

(Political History Background)

(This paper was presented by R.B. Thohe Pou on 16th April 2005 in University of Pune Inter-Disciplinary Discussion Group, after screening the Documentary movie “The Naga Story -The Other Side of Silence” Deliberation on Naga political history was followed after this paper was presented and screening the movie.)

Before we come to the deliberation about the Naga political history. I would like to highlight in brief about the Nagas. The Nagas lived in the northeastern hilly region of India and Myanmar. The Nagas live in present Nagaland state, four districts in Manipur, two districts in Arunachal Pradesh, one district in Assam and in western part of Myanmar. The total area of Naga inhabited areas is about 100,000 Sq.Km. In the word of J.P. Mills (1922), Nagas inhabits in the area, “bounded by the Hukawang valley in the northeast, the plains of Brahmaputra valley to the northwest, of Cachar to the southwest and of the Chindwin to the east. In the south, the Manipur valley roughly marks the point of contact between the Naga tribes and the very much more closely interrelated group of Kuki tribes Thadou, Lushei Chin, etc” The population of Nagas is about 3 millions in 2001.
A brief historical background of the Nagas

The Nagas lived in different villages. They are isolated from one another tribe due to headhunting culture in antique in Nagalim (here Nagalim is the native name referred to all the areas inhabited by the Nagas in northeast India and northwest Myanmar).
Nagas and the Ahoms

It is believed that the Ahoms came to Naga Hills around 1228 A.D. However it is not sure, which were those Naga villages that encountered the Ahoms. The Ahoms were the first outsiders who came to contacts the Nagas. It is said that the King Sukapha (Ahoms’ King) treated the Nagas barbarously. Many of the Nagas were killed and roasted, and compelled their relatives to eat their flesh. However when they settled down in Assam, they developed a good rapport with the Nagas. Since Ahoms are also Mongoloid and free from caste system and had similar food habits; they lived together more closely than others.

A Naga scholar writes that Ahoms never considered the Nagas as conquered subjects in their association for nearly 600 years (i.e. 1228-1819 A.D.). Elwin writes, Ahom king regarded the Nagas as their subjects and took taxes from them in form of slaves, elephant tusks, spears, hand-woven cloth and cotton. However it is believed that only some section of the Naga villlages who lived in the periphery of present Assam state came to contacts with Ahoms, while the rest of the Naga villages were not in contacts with the Ahom king.
Nagas and the British

The British first came to Naga Hills in 1832. The British coming to Naga Hills had brought lots of change in Nagas’ socio-cultural and economic life. When the British first came to the Naga Hills, they have not any intention to conquer the Nagas. A Naga scholar R. Vashum writes, “It was rather necessitated for the British to conquer the Nagas because of the two main reasons.
i). The British had to pass through the Naga Hills on their way to Assam which was their main target for commerce.

ii). The Nagas had subsequently cause enough troubles by way of raids etc. for the British subjects viz., plain people of Assam bordering the Nagas and that it was obligatory for the British to intervene in the matter, in which process they stare conquering the Naga territories.
Tanjenyuba Ao writes that the intention of the British Government was not to conquer and to rule over the Nagas but with the necessity of protecting their subjects on the borders of Nowgong and Sibsagar district against Naga raids the British were compelled to enter the hills and control the Nagas from with. Indeed without any ambition for material gain. The British were reluctantly compelled to occupy the Naga territories in order to protect peace loving people on the British borders, but later it became obligatory on them to intervene in the age old custom of headhunting warfare and massacres between the rival communities and to control them to live in peace and civilized ways. About the Anglo-Naga relation, the Naga scholars had divided into four periods as- Period of exploration, Period of Non-interference and Period of Control.

I. Period of Exploration (1832-1838)

The British were in Manipur before they came to Naga Hills. In early 1830s the British felt the need to open the communication gap between Manipur and Assam. According to the report on the province of Assam in 1854 by Mills A.J. Moffatt, the British first came to contact with the Nagas in 1832 when the Captain Jenkins and Pamberton along with 700 soldiers and 800 coolies or porters to carry their baggage and provision marched across the Naga Hills in their attempt to find a route from Manipur to Assam. When the British came to the Naga Hills, the Nagas continued to raid the British troops in different villages.

II. Period of Expedition (1839-1850)

The British expeditions to Naga Hills were many as ten times during 1839-1850. (Mackenzie: 1979:105). The first expedition was lead by a British Mr. Grange in January 1839. The main reason for the expedition was to subdue all the Angamis (one of the Naga tribe) north of the Water-Pent especially the village of Mozemah and Konemah, whose chiefs were the principal leaders of raid on the british subjects. When the British subdued the Angami, they had to pay tribute to the British as an acknowledgement of the British supremacy (Mackenzie 1979:106).

III. Period of control (1866-1947)

The British had the policy of non-interference with the Nagas and for many years the British did not interfered in the life of the Nagas. However ironically, the Nagas continued to raid the British many times. From 1854 to 1865, there have been nineteen Angami raids, in which 232 British subjects were killed, wounded or carried off (Mackenzie 1979:118). After continuous raid from the Nagas, the British were inevitable to control over the Naga Hills for better relationship with the Nagas. Then the british established the Naga Hills District in 1866 with Samaguting (Chumukedima) as the Deputy commissioner’s headquarter, which was shifted to Wokha in 1875 and later shifted to Kohima in 1878, the present capital of Nagaland state. According to Mackenzie, the British rule in Naga Hills was “not of coercion and contemptuous devastation, but a firm and kindly policy of defense and conciliation.”

According to Gait, The Inner Line Regulation of 1873 was applied to the tribal and the plain peoples of the Northeast frontiers of British India. The British subjects in Assam and the wild tribes living across the frontier frequently led to quarrels and sometimes, to serious disturbances. This was especially the case in connection with the traffic in rubber brought down by the hill men, for which there was a great competition; the opening out of tea gardens beyond the borderline also at time involved the Government in troublesome disputes with the frontier tribe in the vicinity. In order to prevent the recurrence of these difficulties, power was given to the local authorities by the Inner Line Regulation of 1873 to prohibit British subjects generally or those of specified classes from going beyond a certain line, laid down for the purpose without a pass or license, issued by the Deputy Commissioner.
About the Inner Line Regulation Alemchiba writes, the “Inner Line was operated to protect plainsmen from Nagas and Nagas from plainsmen. Both such protections were necessary, and the policy of its institution, often criticized by Indian and resented by the European planters did succeed in preventing many causes of friction”(Alemchiba 1970:150-51). (It was in April 1. 1937, that the Naga Hills district along with the North-east Frontier Tract, the Lushai and North Cachar hills were declared ‘Excluded Areas’ of the province of Assam. (Horam1975: 15)

Emergence of Naga National Movement

About the rise of Naga national movement, a Naga scholar Vashum writes, “The Naga national movement is a complex one with many factors contributing to its formation and developments. The movement can be said as the outcome of the various accumulative forces of the socio-cultural, ethnic, historical, political, religious, and geographical factors which are inextricably interlinked with each other to give rise to what we know today as ‘Naga Nationalism’ and Naga National Movement.’ (Vashum 2000:57-5). He further added that one could fail to understand the real picture of Naga nationalism and Naga National Movement’ without knowing the historical background and ethos of the Nagas.

In Naga villages, there are different systems of governing. There is Monarchical system of governing the village in some tribes. (Konyaks (lower), Semas, Maos, Poumai, Tangkhuls, Zeliangrong etc). The Republican type of government was found among the Aos, Lothas, Sangtams etc. (Among the Aos, Tatars (councilors) were the representatives of the people; one could become the chief in Ao village by way of one’s merit and influence.) (Vashum 2000:5)

Elwin and some other termed it as ‘Extreme democracy’ for the case of Angami Nagas’. In summing up the administrative system in Naga villages, Elwin writes that the Nagas society presents a varied pattern of near-dictatorship and extreme democracy. There is system of hereditary chieftainship among the Semas and Changs’.

Vashum writes about the Naga village governing, “Whether it be monarchical or republican, the administration in the village was carried on by the village council or in rare case like those of Angami villages the village public took over the administration”.

He further added, “in general, a Naga village was said to be self-sufficient, and by and large maintained its sovereignty with the principle of socialism and democracy. Any interference, trespassing or encroachment by members of other village(s) in its territorial jurisdiction usually provoked inter village war where headhunting could be followed justifiably. In other words, inter-village geo-political relations were strictly observed. This long tradition of the Nagas with relative self-sufficiency, freedom, isolation, passion for independence, and their sovereignty over their respective homeland could have made them psychologically conscious of what they were /are/should with deep rootedness so that as we shall find in the following discussion, they are averse to any outside interference or encroachment in their territories.” (Vashum 2000:59-60).

The Nagas resistance to the British entry in Naga Hills in 1830s cannot be termed as Naga National Movement. However the Nagas had a strong will to protect their land from the outsiders. They raided the British many times, and later control by the British. The Nagas interaction with the British brought oneness among the Nagas. During the First World War, the British government recruited about two thousand Nagas and sent them to France as labor Corps. A Naga writer, Yonuo writes, “Journey across seas and countries awakened the spunk of the Naga nationalism like other parts of India and they began to develop the concept of a Naga nation which had not dreamt of before” (pages xii-xiii). In 1918, an organization was formed known as ‘Naga Club’ with the joint efforts of government, officials, village’ headmen, including those Nagas who returned from France inter alia.

During the zenith of Jodonang’s civil disobedient movement in 1929 in Naga Hills, the Naga Club submitted a historical Memorandum to the Simon Commission in Kohima, in which the Naga club demanded for excluding them from the proposed ‘Reformed Scheme’ of India, and to leave them alone like they were before. They want to live under the direct British administration in order to protect and guarded against all the encroachment from the non-Nagas. However the Naga Hills Districts were included in ‘Excluded Area’ in 1937.

One of the Nagas, Mr. Jadonang Kabui, who was enlisted as British soldier in Mesopotamia in the First World War, started a religio-political movement in 1925 to overthrow the British rule in Naga country. In 1930, it was spread to all the Naga Hills but he was arrested by the British in 1931 and later hanged to death. After his death, a 16 years old of his cousin sister name Gaidinliu succeeded as the spiritual and political leader. However she also arrested in 1932 and by 1934 the movement came to end.

The early conversion to Christianity and modern education created great tensions in Naga Hills during 1870s. They hated the British Colonial government and foreign religion. However in the later years – the Christianity and modern education brought consciousness of their identity and right to live an independence life without domination by other colonialists. All the Nagas had an independence village, having democratic and federal form of governing and they never come under any foreign domination. Henceforth, the Nagas were intolerable of direct or indirect control in their socio-religious life by the foreigners. The Nagas want to have self-rule and the movement was initiated and led by Haipou Jadonang Kabui, born in the last decade of 1800 at Kambiron village, in the present day Tamenglong district, Manipur.

Jodonang had served as a soldier in Mesopotamia during the First World War. He was the founder of an archaic religion called Heraka, meaning pure and had mystic vision about he advent of an indigenous realm. The movement was confined in the North Cachar Hills of Assam, the Tamenglong, Senapati and Churanchandpur districts of Manipur and what is today the Peren sub-division of the Kohima District. Jodanang hated the British colonism and their religion. He formed a force of young Riphen (soldiers) armed with muzzle guns in order to defend their land and religion. In 1926, Gandhi visited Guwahati to attend an AICC Session where he learnt about Jodanang’s name and fame that spread to the Hills Districts.

1927, Jodonang prophesied the end of the British rule, provoking S.J. Duncan, sub-divisional officer at Tamenglong, to issue a warrant of arrest against him. He was charged on seduction and brought before the sub-divisional officer’s court on 6th December 1928, but released after a few days of imprisonment. After that, the young and brave Jodonang also directed the people to stop paying taxes, disobey government orders and refuse government labour. In March 1931, the Deputy Commissioner J.P. Mills took note of Jadonang where he proclaimed himself to be the King (Rajah) and charged all Nagas to prepare for a decisive war of liberation. Jadonang was arrested and fined on charges of murder. He had allegedly offered four Manipur traders in sacrifice of his god Tingwa and he was found guilty and was hanged at Imphal on 29th August 1931.

Sir Robert Reid, who was the Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills and later became the governor of Assam came to know the Nagas culture and customs after associating with the Nagas and studying about the Nagas. In his association with Nagas – he founded the ethnic and cultural differences between the Nagas and British and Burma. In 1941, Sir Robert Reid, then governor of Assam recommended a scheme to carve out a trust territory called, Crown colony comprising the “Naga Hills”, North East Frontier area in upper Assam and the Hill areas in upper Burma.

In his confidential reports, Sir Reid stated, “We have no right to allow this great body of non-Indian animist and Christians to be drawn to the struggle between Hindus and Muslim, which is now and will be in the future, with even increasing intensity, the dominating feature of politics in India proper…they cannot be left no Indian political leaders with neither knowledge, interest nor feeling for the areas. In any case, if any main premises of separation from India is accepted, their intervention could scaresely arise…Personally, I am in favor of Dr. Hutton’s idea of a North Eat Province vaguely embracing all the Hills fringes from Lushai (or Lakher) land on the south right round to the Balipara Frontier tract o the north, embracing on the way the Chittagong Hill tracts of Bengal and the Nagas and Chins of Burma and perhaps the Shan states too. (op.cit.vashum:200:67)

However this idea was effectively criticized by a later Governor of Assam, Sir Andrew Clow in 19945 and the Naga themselves equally opposed it, though on their ground, for they had no affection of any kind of colonialism and they proved a strong as any congressmen in insisting that the ‘British must go’(Elwin 1961:51-52). Sir Robert Reid understand the great differences in cultural between the Naga animists and Christian and Hindus and Muslim and he wanted carved out as “Nagas Hills” was unsuccessful but such kind of ideas to carved out the Nagas Hills as a separate territory definitely encouraged and brought consciousness to the Nagas to have One Administrative Unit and free from foreign domination in the later years.

Angami Zapu Phizo, the “Father of the Nation” from Khonoma village, was born in the years of 1900. Phizo went to Burma in 1935 to try his fortune after failing in all his attempts at home to get rich, and he lived in Burma till 1946. He was with his younger brother Keviyalie (officially used a Kevi Yallay) when Rangoon fell to the Japanese in 1942. The Japanese promised to recognize Nagaland as a sovereign country if Phizo help them in the war against the British. He joined the Indian National Army under Subhash Chandra Bose to the liberation Army through the Naga Hills. However the Japanese were defeated and Phizo and his brother were arrested by the British government under the charge that the two brothers had collaborated with the Japanese in fighting against the British. In 1946, Phizo returned to Nagaland with his entire family as a social worker. “By this time the issue of Naga self determination had well gripped the minds of the Nagas, and public opinion had already been moulded against the continued dominance of the British Indian over the Nagas. (M.Zinyii:1961:11).

After the World War II, Mr.C.R. Pawsey, the deputy commissioner of the Naga Hills launched an organization in April 1945, called as ‘Naga Hills District Tribal Council’. However on February 1946, in its Wokha Session, the council was rechristened as Naga National Council’ (NNC).
The main objectives of the organization were to “foster the welfare an social aspiration of the Nagas and it received official patronage as a unifying and moderating influence. Its original political objective was to achieve local autonomy for the hills within the province of Assam and to train the people for self-government. It encouraged the tribal councils already set up by individual tribes and started others to administer their own local affairs and consider possible reform” (Elwin 1961:51). At first, NNC did not speak of “separation from British India…but later, things were not the same anymore, say from early 1947” (Vashum 2000:6)
The Naga National Council made initial political aim expressed on 19 June 1946, when they submitted a Four Point Memorandum to the visiting British Cabinet Mission who came to prepare the ground for granting independence to India. (Vashum) Four points are–

This Naga National Council stands for solidarity of Naga tribes including those in the unadministered areas.

  1. This Council strongly protests against the grouping of Assam with Bengal;
  2. The Naga Hills should be constitutionally included in autonomous Assam, in a free India, with local autonomy and due safeguard for the interest of the Nagas; and
  3. The Naga tribes should have a separate electorate.

On August 1, 1946, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as president of Indian National Congress in a letter to Mr T.Shakrie, Secretary of the Naga National Council communicated about the future of the Naga Hills, which read as follow: (A long letter I have reproduced here only a part of it)
“It is obvious that the Naga territory in Eastern Assam is much too small to stand by its politically or economically. It lies between two huge countries, India and China, and part of it consists of rather backward people who required considerable help. When India is independent, as it is bound to be soon, it will not be possible fore the British Government to hold on the Naga territory or any part of it. They would be isolated there between India and China. Inevitable, therefore, this Naga territory must form part of India and of Assam with which it has developed such close associations…I am glad that the Naga National council stands for the solidarity of all the Naga tries including those who live I the so-called unadministered territory. I agree entirely with our decision that the Naga hills should constitutionally be included in an autonomous Assam in a free India with local autonomy and due safeguarded for the interest of the Nagas…As for separate electorate for the Nagas, I am not clear in my mind as to how this will work. Generally, speaking, we are against separate electorate as this will limit and injure the small group by keeping it separated from the rest of the nation. But if the Naga territory is given a measure of autonomy, some arrangements will have to e made for their proper representation…”
However the view of Jawaharlal Nehru on the future of the Naga Hills was not acceptable to the NNC. Accordingly, on February 20,1947, the NNC sent a Memorandum to Lord Mountbatten, then the Viceroy of India for setting up an ‘Interim Government’ for the Nagas for a period of ten years, at the end of which the Naga people will be left to choose any form of government as to their wish. The term of the Memorandum was as follows:
1. The Interim Government of the Naga people will rule over all the people of Nagaland, having full powers in respect of Legislation, Executive and Judiciary.
2. Nagaland belongs to the Naga people and will be inalienable.
3. The Interim Government of the Naga people will have full powers in the matter of raising revenue and expenditure, an annual subvention to cover the deficit being given by the guardian power.
4. For defense and aiding civil power in case of emergency, a forum considered necessary by the Naga National Council will be maintained in Nagaland by the guardian power (Ao 1993:278)
The Hydari Agreement reached between the Government of India (represented by Sir Akbar Hydari, then Governor of Assam) and the Naga (represented by the Naga National council) on June 27-29, 1947 and the Preamble read, as “The right of the Nagas to develop themselves according to their freely expressed wishes is recognized.”
In this agreement, it includes the 1. Judicial 2. Executive 3. Legislative 4. Land 5. Taxation 6. Boundaries (That present administrative divisions should be modified so as to

i). Bring back into Naga Hills Districts all the Forests transferred to the Sibsagar and Nowgong District in the past, and
ii). Bring under one unified administrative unit, as far as possible, all Nagas. All the areas so included would be within the scope of the present proposed agreement.
No areas should be transferred out of the Naga Hills without the consent of the Naga national Council.
7. Arms Act 8. Regulations 9. Period of Agreement (The governor of Assam as the agent of the government of Indian Union will have a special responsibility for a period of ten years to ensure the due observance of this agreement; at the end of this period the Naga National council will be asked whether they require the above agreement to be extended for a further period, or a new agreement regarding the future of the Naga people arrived at.
The NNC understood this point nine as “The governor of Assam as the agent of the government of the Indian union will have a special responsibility for a period of ten years to ensure the due observance of this agreement, at the end of this period the Naga will be free to decide their own future (Ramunny Murkot 1993:26). Whereas the Government of India, spelled out by the governor of Assam, interpreted the point nine as, “At the end of this period the NNC will be free to decide what is arrangements should be made for the future administration of the Naga country. It being clearly understood that such arrangement would not contemplate union with Pakistan or Burma but would maintain union with India (Ibid)
Phizo admitted that point nine of the Hydari agreement was not a clear promise of the self-determination. But it was an acceptable start to a majority of the NNC, and both sides formally agreed to the document (Nibedon 1983:31). Phizo also recorded that, “that same very evening Sir Akbar Hydari warned several Naga delegates that if the Naga Hills Districts in fact refused to join the Indian union, India would use force against them.” (ibid). After the Hydari Agreement, there was a great controversy arose amongst the NNC leaders regarding the “Period of Agreement”.

However they reached a consensus later on the understanding that they were never Indians and that the Naga territories were never a part of India at any time before the advent of the British. Thus a seven-member delegation of the NNC consisting of Phizo, Khrisanisa, Kughato, Kezehol, John Angami, T.Sakhrie and Lhousihtuo were sent to new Dehi in 1947(M.Zinyii:21) to propose their view, that the Nagas be left outside the Indian union when the British withdrew from British India.
In a interview with Mahatma Gandhi at the Bhangi colony, in New Delhi on 19 July, 1947, the Naga delegation is said to have told the Mahatma Gandhi, that they were resolved to declare their own independence a day before India did so, on August 14,1947, and ask him for his help. As this, according to Phizo, Mahatma Gandhi told the Naga delegation:

“Nagas have every right to be independent. We did not want to live under the British and they are now leaving us. I want you to feel that India is yours. I feel that the Naga Hills are mine just as much as they are yours. But if you say that they are mine, the matter must stop here. I believe in the brotherhood of man, but I do not believe in force or forced unions. If you do not wish to join the Union of India, nobody will force you to do that. When the Naga delegates pointed out that Sir Akbar Hydari was threatening to do exactly that, Gandhi exclaimed; Sir Akbar is wrong! I will ask them to shoot me first before one Naga is shot” (Nibedon 1983:33).
The Nagas had different views for the declaration of the Nagas Independence. Some section of the Nagas want immediate independence, while others want to continue with the Indian government in some modified form. To quote Elwin, A Naga leader says, “While one group of Nagas favored immediate independence, some moderates favored the continuance of governmental relations with India in some modified form until they were sufficiently schooled in the art of running a modern state. There was a third minority, which wanted to bring Nagaland into the position of a mandatory state under the British Government for a specified period of time. (Elwin 1961:51)
The NNC fully trusted Mahatma Gandhi words in their meeting in New Delhi on 19 July 1947 and with their extreme line of action, they declared Naga National Independence on 14 August 1947. Then nine members of NNC signed the declaration. According to Mildred Archer, the NNC on 14 August, 1947, had “drafted telegram to the press declaring the independence of the Naga Hills. Twelve copies were made and addressed to the leading newspapers. But before they were dispatched the Postmaster referred them to Pawsey (then Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills). He decided that they would only make troubele; so he ordered them to be withheld. Nothing therefore reached, the press-not a word appeared announcing their tremendous step.”(Quoted by Ao 1993:281).

In Kohima and Mokochung school students enthusiastically took part in the Naga Naitonal independence ceremony. After flag hoisting in their respective headquarters processions were held shouting slogans “Long Live Naga Nation”; we declared “Naga Independence” (Ao 1993:280). However, the British India did not recognize the unilateral declaration of the Naga National Independence. Then came, the Indian National Independence, which was declared the following day, the 15th August 1047; but it was boycotted by the Nagas. In this connection, Mildred Archer had recorded the event as,

“Yesterday evening as we sat by the fire, Charles Pawsey, the Deputy Commissioner told us about recent development in Kohima-Indian Independence Day, it seemed flopped badly. But apart from a few Assamese the great parade ground was deserted and not a single Naga was anywhere in sight. A little later the civil surgeon a Bengali, hoisted his own flag but it had only seen an hour when a crowd collected and some angry Nagas hauled it down. That was the only time the flag appeared. But, if, in Kohima Indian independence Day was dry, chilly and lifeless the move for Naga independence also proved equally feeble and abject (Ao 1993:281)
In the past few centuries the Nagas were encountering the problems and experiencing the bitter life in the process of learning and developing of modern nationalism or Naga nationalism. The Nagas’ traditional way of life was not much affected by the British administration, except that, the Nagas were given new religion (Christian), modern education, bringing peace and reconciliation in headhunting etc. The British interfering in headhunting and administration in Naga Hills brought oneness among the Nagas, which brought Naga National movement in Nagalim.

In April 1948, the NNC discussed the proposal of the Indian constitution then under circulation and decided to meet Governor Akbar Hydari and Gopi Nath Bardoli, by then the Chief Minister of Assam, to find out whether the Hydari agreement is to be implemented or not. In an interview with Phizo on 5th May 1948, Hydari assured that the government did not have “the slightest intention of departing from the agreement”. His adviser N.K. Rustomji then sent a letter to the President of the NNC to say that the agreement would certainly be implemented and that the machinery to that end was already in motion. (M.Rammuny:27).

He annexed the copy of the Memo, signed by both A. Hydari and G.N. Bardoloi, Premier of Assam on 22 June 1948, which said, “If however, there is still remains any doubt or apprehension in the minds of the Naga people regarding the validity of the agreements, His Excellency and the Honorable Premier were prepared to give the written assurance that had been asked for. They have been pleased to do accordingly and have appended their signature to this document as a token of the assurance they have been asked to give”(Vashum:138).

In November 1949, an NNC delegation met the Governor-General of India, C.R. Rajagopalachari so that they would not be forced into the Indian Union. The Governor-General told the Naga delegation that ‘they were at full liberty to do as they liked, either to become part of india or to be separate if they felt it would be best in their interests to be isolated” (Maxwell 1982:5). But at the level of actions rather than words all the evidence pointed to the Indian government’s intention to treat the Naga Hills as an area under its jurisdiction like any other in the country. (ibid).

In February 1950, the NNC passed resolution that,
1). No Naga should join the Assam Legislative Assembly or Indian Parliament
2). The aspiration and inspiration of the Naga to fight for freedom is through peace and good will not through bloodshed (Ao 1993:283)
After Phizo was elected as the president of the NNC, in December 1950, the movement of the Naga people for self-determination became more consolidated, defined, and stringent. Sooner he was recognized as the leader of the Naga national movement by the Naga people.

On December 11, 1950, a meeting was held at Kohima and the NNC resolved to hold a Plebiscite to determine the Naga political opinion on the issue of whether to remain in the Indian Union or to get out and form a sovereign independent country. A letter addressed to the government of India requested it to send its representatives to observe the Plebiscite, which was to be held on May 16, 1951. In a signed circular addressed to the presidents of Tribal Councils, dated 30th April 1950, Phizo said,

“We are to see that the Plebiscite is conducted in a normal way. There should be no agitation or demonstration. Every person must feel perfectly free to say and record what he or she likes. We are fighting for independence, for a fuller freedom, for a separate sovereign state of Nagaland. But those people, if there are any, who wish to say that Nagaland must be within the Indian Union, must have the full freedom to express their views without fear…(M.Rammuny:35)

From May, 1951, the NNC conducted the famous Naga Plebiscite which lasted for about two months. The final result was nearly unanimous where the Nagas voted 99% in favor of independence from India. They “Filled up forms with thumb impressions were dispatched to the President of India, the President of All India Congress Party and the General Secretary of the United Nations.

For the Nagas the spirit of unilateral plebiscite held in the Naga country was accepted without any objections from any quarters and it became binding on all Naga national struggle. The solidarity and oneness of Naga people which was an impossible task due to traditional feelings of enmity, language difficulty and different tribal social set up was achieved through the spirit of plebiscite. All credits for unity of the Nagas go to the stewardship of Phizo. (Ao 1993: 285)

The result of the Plebiscite was sent to the President of India and other functionaries of the Indian government, who just ignored it. Phizo then decided to go underground. The Nagas struggle had reached the crossroads, where its leaders had to choose between continuing with a patently futile constitutional course or girding themselves for open defiance, which soon enough would mean an armed struggle (M.Rammuny:30).  The non-cooperation after the Plebiscite was successful. The general election in 1952 was totally boycotted in Naga areas; not a single nomination was filled in the Naga areas; not a single vote was cast. The Nagas also stayed away from the District Councils. The school teachers and other govt. employers resigned their jobs and the people refused to pay taxes.

In July 1952, Nehru speaking in the Lok Sabha, dismissed the Naga demand as ‘complete unwise, impracticable and unacceptable.’ (Maxwell 1982:5). The same year the Nagas boycotted the District Council scheme for the Naga Hills District, and the first general elections of India and Myanmar.
On March 30, 1953, the Nagas also boycotted the visit of Nehru with his counterpart the then Prime Minister of Burma. Mullick (1972:303-05), who accompanied Nehru during his visit to the Naga Hills (the unfortunate event happened at Kohima) recorded that Pandit Nehru, the darling of India’s crowds’, were effectively boycotted’ by the Nagas, as ‘the entire Naga audience excepting a few government servants left the place of the meeting’ where Nehru was addressing,’ and he was left to address a few dozens of Government servants and their family members, most of whom were not Nagas but plains people.’ ‘The reason behind the boycott was the refusal of the Nagas demand to read out a statement at the public meeting’ for the acceptance of the 9-point programme and conceding their right to secede after ten years.’ A welcome address was to be read out by a member of the NNC from the stage and the draft of the welcome address was presented to the Deputy Commissioner Barakataki.

But he conveyed the order to the NNC leaders just ten minutes before the meeting was to commence that ‘no welcome address either in speech or in writing will be allowed at the public meeting” On 31st March 1953, “The Statesman” reported the angry speech, which Nehru made infront of the handful of government officials and interpreters after the crowd walked out on him howling and thumping their buttoms. Nehru lashed out a “outsiders”, meaning foreign Christian missionaries, for misleading the Nagas in India, warning them that if this continued, the government would have to put an end to their mischief (M. Rammuny:36)

In Naga Hills the problem with the India military commenced in late 1952. On October 18, 1952, Mr. Lasibito, the Assistant Judge of the Angami Tribal Council Court (an official judge) was shot dead by an officer of the Assam Police while a public demonstration was held at Kohima.
By 1954 armed violence, murder, arson, looting, and kidnapping, had become quite common and widespread (Sema 1986:92)

In 1955, Indian Military forces were called in place of Assam police battalions. The military forces went on burning almost all the villages with all contents in the Naga Hills District and the villages were regrouped in a central place and confined under strong stockades and the inhabitants not allowed to go out from the stockades so that the underground Naga workers were cut off from their families communication and supplies. The church leaders were persecuted by the Indian military forces, churches were desecrated which were used as rest camp of Indian forces…the inhabitants were collected in the church and tortured there, girls and women were molested, raped and beaten by the Indian forces sometime inside the church. (Ao 1993:289)
Mullick (1972) recorded that the Indian troops ‘moved into Tuensang by October 1955, and the war with Nagas started then” (p-308). With the Naga Hills declared Disturbed Area on January 29, 1956, the army started moving in two days later (Anand 1980:121)

The Naga Home Guards (NHG) and Naga Safe Guards (NSG) was formed in 1954, which was later renamed to Naga Army on 3rd January in 1956. The strength of Naga Army personnel, which was about 5,000 was shot up to 15,000 in 1956. (Alemchiba 1970:184, Horam 1988:80-1). On March 22, 1956, the NNC, set up Federal Government of Nagaland and its flag was hoisted at Phesinyu, a Rengme village. A Constitution of the newly formed Naga Government, call Yehzabo was also drawn up.  Phizo started armed resistance after moving to Tuesang in 1953. He also formed the “Republican Government of Free Nagaland” with one Hongkin as President, from Tuesang in September 1954.

On January 18,1956, Sakhrie (former General Secretary of the NNC and who resigned from the NNC for its extreme and violent means) was assassinated for co-operating with the Indian Government and anti-NNC activities. “Many others who openly opposed the movement also met with the same fate” (Alemchiba 1970:185).  After Sakhrie’s murder, Nehru’s temper suddenly changed and he telegraphed the governor and the Chief of Assam ordering them to arrest Phizo, his close associates and to suppress their activities. By April 1956, the army had moved in with two Brigades and had established divisional headquarters at Kohima, probably in the knowledge that Phizo was planning to attack Kohima, which he did on 10th June 1956.

Brilliantly imitating the military tactics followed by the Japanese in 1944, Phizo had almost completely taken over the city when Kaito Sema, annoyed by Phizo’s refusal to make him the commander-in-chief over his loyal Thangti Chang, withdrew from the scene with his entire Sema force. But for his defections, Phizo might have captured Kohima in June or July 1956. Phizo managed to escape from Nagaland, “and after crossing over to the then East Pakistan on December 6, 1956, made a sudden appearance at in Decca” (Anand 1980:191) by June 1960, he arrived London to lobby for the cause of the Nagas for independence.

The clear message was conveyed to three independent emissaries, Vizol, later became chief of Nagaland, Megorto and Zashie Huire, who went to Delhi in March 1956 to gauge the government’s mood. In the end, fine NNC senior leaders signed a statement that denounced violence, asked for a re-organization of the NNC with better representative of al the Naga tribes and demanded the formation of “a Naga state with the Republic of India for a stated period subject to a referendum to determine the future destiny of the Nagas on expiry of that period”. The statement, signed on 6th May 1956, also asked for all the Naga tribes from various districts and areas who wished to merge into a separate Naga State to come forward and get in touch with the NNC. The government’s response ruled out a “Referendum” but proposed to bring the whole area under a single administration fro the purpose of restoring peace.

The Naga People’s Convention started the process for the creation of Nagaland State and the formation of Nagaland was the culmination of NPC in 1957, under the guidance of S.M. Dutt, Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau. The procedure and negotiation to form Nagaland stated started after the convention in 1957.

The Prime Minister received a nine-member delegation of NPC under the President of Dr. Imkongliba Ao, on 25th September 1957. In this meeting, the Prime Minister accepted the request for a general amnesty covering all past offences and also agreed to set up one administrative unit of the Naga Hills District and Tuesang Frontier Division under a specially selected officer.

The second Naga People’s Convention met at Ungma in Mokochung subdivision from 21 to 23 May 1958 and the convention appointed Liasion committee to negotiate and settle the Naga problem but failed to persuade the leaders of the Naga underground to negotiate with the Union government. The third NPC was held on 22nd October 1959 and there was continuous deliberation for five days on different proposal for final solution of the problem with the Union government.

Governor Srinagesh met the NPC leaders on 8th and 9th April, 1960 and tried to dissuade them from demanding a full-fledged state within the Union, but the delegation told him that a refusal to discuss the resolution would mean a break-down and escalation of violent activities. Prime Minister Nehru arrived in Gauhati on 16th April 1960, accompanied by Verrier Elwin and his other advisers on the Naga problem. Nehru agreed to the basic demand on the condition that it would not be forced immediately. Nehru’s reluctant concession was largely influenced by the advices of the Naga administrators and intelligence officials that this was the government’s only chance to deal with a set of Naga leaders who abjured violence and did not demand complete independence. They also told him that if the negotiations did not move forward now, the main bulk of the NPC would join Phizo. Thus, the principle of a “State of Nagaland” was conceded by Nehru at his meeting with the NPC delegation led by Imkongliba Ao on 26th July 1960, within the terms of the “Sixteen-point Agreement”, and finalized in detailed discussions with the Foreign Secretary on 27 and 28, 1960. (R. N. Kumar: 2002:52).

The Indian Prime Minister announced the establishment of in parliament on 1st August 1960. The Assam’s Governor inaugurated the Interim body, under the chairmanship of Imkongliba Ao, on 18th Feb. 1961. Although Imkongliba Ao was assassinated on 20th August 1961, President S. Radhakrishnan inaugurated the State of Nagaland with P. Shilu Ao as Chief Minister on 1st December 1963. In 1963 the 16th State of India called Nagaland was constituted under the state of Nagaland Act, 1962 (after 16-point agreement).

It is said that, the government of India worked very hard deploying efficient Intelligence personnel since mid 1950s to create some autonomous administrative scheme for the Nagas to integrate them into the system of the Indian union. This secret mission by the government of India in the Naga Hills was well recorded by the Intelligence personality Mr. B.N. Mullick himself who is the brain behind the creation of Nagaland state. (Mullick 1972).

Some of the writers and leaders commented or opined on newly formed Nagaland State. J. H. Hutton, one of the authors on Nagas opined, “The Nagas have in fact got more than they might have expect4ed or even desired – complete internal home rule financed by the Indian government, they have own their war, but to take advantage of their victory the underground must be persuaded to surrender their arms, and order in the hills must be restored’. But Kevichusa, a member of the Liasion Committee appointed by the second Naga People’s Convention who had stayed away from the final negotiations, said that the Statehood had been “imposed”.

A one-time follower of Nehru, Triloknath Purwar (the Allahabadi who had befriended Sakhrie before his murder) said it was “a graft”. Phizo called it “a sell-out” and demanded a plebiscite. The underground did not surrender their arms. The cycle of violence continued. (M. Ramunny:72-100, Y.D. Gundevia:71-74). The non-recognition of the existence of Nagaland State by the NNC (the powerful Naga underground group) can be gauged from its supreme Mr.A.Z. Phizo when he declared in London that h 16-Point Agreement signed between the Government of India and NPC (Naga People’s Convention) “was nothing more than a ‘bribe’ given by the Government to the members of the Naga People’s Convention. According to him the Naga People’s Convention was no more than a ‘puppet assembly’. The people will accept neither the Indian ‘bribe’ of statehood no India’s offer of ‘internal autonomy’ as something to be eulogized. It is only a means to conceal her (India’s) heinous crime against humanity” (Daili-Mao 1992:75). Dr. Imkongmeren who was the architect of the NPC and formation of Nagaland state was assassinated on August 22, 1961 by the underground Nagas.

When the creation of Nagaland State could not solved the problem and violence in Nagaland, it became necessary to have peace between the Nagas the government of India. The Nagaland Baptist Convention organized at Wokha from January 31st to Feb. 2nd, 1964 welcomed the proposed talk between the government of India and Z. Phizo and called on the government to “open further avenues for making available the services of Shri. Jayaprakash Narayan, Shri Shankar Rao Deo, Shri. B.P. Chaliha and Rev. Scott, with the sole object of exploring ways and means for the speedy restoration of peace and normalcy in Nagaland. (Dr. V.K. Nuh 1999:198).

In this peace process – Michael Scott played a important role in working out the terms of a ceasefire with the Union govt. insisting that it should apply not only to Nagaland, but also to the Naga areas in Manipur because the armed conflict had overflowed into these three adjacent subdivisions of Manipur and also because these divisions of Manipur were always claimed to be the majority areas.  On September 6, 1964 the Indian government and Federal government of Nagaland declared bilateral ceasefire. There were six rounds of talks in Delhi from February 18, 1966 to October 5, 1967. Even those talks culminated in a deadlock.
On 18th April 1968, B. K. Nehru became the Governor of Nagaland, replacing Vishnu Sahay, and firmly closed all doors to negotiations with the Naga underground (Rammuny: 167-9). Kaito Sema himself was assassinated by a gunman inside Kohima city on 3rd August 1968. Captain Arueno of Khonoma village, rumored to be the assassin, was tracked down and shot dead by the security forces on 20th September 1968.

On 30th October 1968, Kaito’s cofident General Zuheto kidnapped Mhiashiu, President of the Naga underground government, along with Z. Ramyo and Kuhovi. Kidnappers came also for Keviyally, but he managed to escape. In March 1969, Mowu Angami, on his way back from China, was captured after Zuheto had managed to lure him into his camp. The General of the Naga army was dispatched to Delhi for interrogation on the Chinese connection. Scores of his soldiers were killed. Nearly, 300 of them, trapped in the Tuesang area, surrendered. (M.Rammuny:177).

In 1971, the General Thinoselie M. Keyho, who had been supervising the guerilla training camps in the Chittagong hill tracts of East Pakistan after returning from China, was arrested in Dhaka along with his subordinate Nidilip Angami and both of them were flown to Delhi for grilling.

On 1st June 1972, the affairs of Nagaland were transferred from the office of the External Affairs Ministry, which had looked after the Excluded Tribal Areas since the British days, to the Ministry of Home affairs. On 8th August 1972, the Naga underground made an abortive attempt to kill Hokishe Sema, the Chief Minister of Nagaland who had played an important role in engineering the break of the powerful Sema tribal group from Phizo’s camp. The incident provoked the government to formally withdraw the ceasefire that had been regularly extended since September 1964. The Naga National Council and the Federal Government of Nagaland were banned as illegal organization under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
For the first time in the history of the Naga national movement, the government of India enforced the Unlawful Activities Act 1967 and banned the activities of the Federal government of Nagaland, the Naga Federal Army, and the Naga National council on September 1, 1972.

In May, 1975, President’s Rule was imposed in the State of Nagaland, which was followed by the declaration of National Emergency (India) in the same month. In this critical situation in India, the Shillong Accord was coolly signed on November 10-11, 1975 at Raj Bhavan, Shillong between the Naga underground consisting of six members delegation led by Kevi Yallay, brother of Phizo, and the Government of India represented by L.P. Singh, then Governor of Nagaland. On 21st November 1975, Muivah, as the General Secretary of the NNC, and six members of his delegation including Isak Chishi Swu, issued a statement that “the people of Nagaland have nothing to choose in place of their national freedom” and that they will “by no means be a party to any settlement that may entail the loss of their right to sovereign existence”. The statement called the negotiators of the Agreement “traitors”, and disclaimed their “authority to settle the Indo-Naga issue within the Indian Union”

The Shillong Accord was another great blow to the Naga National movement. The Nagas by and large realized that the Accord was a sellout of the Nagas’ rights. (Vashum 2000:94). The contacts and quarrels between the rebel group of the NNC under Muivah and the signatories of the Shillong Agreement after November 1978 remain shrouded in the obscurity of undercover operations and can only be pieced together very roughly, on the basis of oral reports and polemical literature circulated by the two groups. Muivah and Isak later made the astonishing revelation that in August 19790 the signatories of the Shillong Agreement reached them with the proposal that the NNC should conclude a final settlement with New Delhi on the basis that Phizo would become a lifelong Chief Minister to directly nominate 20 legislators to the State Assembly (op.cit. R. N. Kumar:73p).  Another report suggests that a group of Ao Nagas loyal to K. Mayanger Ao, a nephew of NNC’s Vice- President Imkongmeren, managed to penetrate the headquarters of the Naga territory in Burma administered by Muivah and Isak Swu and on instructions from KeviYallay placed both of them in custody.

It is suggests that their captors threatened to eliminate them for refusing to fall in line with Phizo and were made to dig their own graves on more than one occasion. But Muivah managed to win over S.S. Khaplang, an influential Pangmi Naga chieftain from Woktham village in western Burma, to his side and engineered a counter-coup in which all their tormtors were eliminated. These incidents led to their final rupture with the NNC loyal to Phizo, whom they condemned as a traitor, and to the formation on 31st January 1980 of the “National Socialist Council of Nagaland”. Isak Chishi Swu became the Chairman and S.S. Khaplang, Vice Chairman. Th. Muivah remained the General Secretary. (ibid).

As suggested in a later statement issued by Muivah on 3rd January 1984, twelve members of the Goodwill Mission to China returned to Nagaland to persuade the signatories of the Shillong Agreement to refute it. All of them were murdered at the call of “Christians versus Communists”. The 21st November statement had said that no one in whatever name or capacity has the authority to settle the Indo-Naga issue within the Indian Union. According to a later statement issued by Muivah, Isak Chishi Swu, S.S. Khaplang, the members of the Goodwill Mission to China contacted Phizo and wrote to him several letters, requesting him to clarify his position, to condemn the Agreement and to provide guidance and direction. But Phizo ignored their entreaties and remained silent.

At the same time, he wrote back to one member of the Goodwill Mission and their liaison man in Kachinland, T. Pushu Venu, emphazing the importance of a tactical alliance between the Angami and Chakhesang tribes and the unreliability of other associations. This sounded by Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu. This also suggested that Phizo was not going against his brother.

The present National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed on 31 January 1980. On 30 April 1988 the NSCN was split into two groups as NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K). The NSCN-IM comes under the leadership of Isak Chishi Swu and Th. Muivah and NSCN-K comes under the leadership of S.S. Khaplang. The NSCN was split after a sbloody purge engineered by S.S. Khaplang who accused Muivah and Isak Swu of hobnobbing with the Indian government and of moving towards a settlement within the Indian Union. It is believed by many that Khaplang and his confidants spread the canard at the instigation of Indian intelligence agencies. According to Subir Bhaumik, Rajiv Gandhi had deputed N.F. Suntook, former Chief of the Research and  Analysis Wing, to start the dialogue with the Naga underground around this time. Khaplang is also known to be a man of autocratic temper and wayward lifestyle, incapable of political discipline and subordination.

After the NSCN split into two groups – both the groups try to gain the favor of the Naga people. In the process of their racing to embrace more people and gain popularity, the Indian government taken into confident with the NSCN-IM, then the NSCN-IM and Indian commenced to deliberate on different occasions to solve the pending Nagas problem. Thus, on 1st August 1997, the ceasefire was declared between the government of Indian and the NSCN-IM. The terms of understanding of the Indo-Naga political talk were:
1. Talks shall be unconditional from both sides;

2. The talks shall be at the highest level; that is, at the Prime Minister level;
3. The venue of the talks shall be anywhere in the world, outside India.

The Ceasefire between GOI and NSCN-IM still going on till date. We are hopeful that a lasting solution will be brought through the present peace talks.

Some of the reasons for raising the Naga National Movement

  1. About the rise of Naga national movement, a Naga scholar Vashum writes, “The Naga national movement is a complex one with many factors contributing to its formation and developments. The movement can be said as the outcome of the various accumulative forces of the socio-cultural, ethnic, historical, political, religious, and geographical factors which are inextricably interlinked with each other to give rise to what we know today as ‘Naga Nationalism’ and Naga National Movement.’ (Vashum 2000:57-5).

He further added that one could fail to understand the real picture of Naga nationalism and Naga National Movement’ without knowing the historical background and ethos of the Nagas.

  1. The Hydari Agreement reached between the Government of India (represented by Sir Akbar Hydari, then Governor of Assam) and the Naga (represented by the Naga National council) on June 27-29, 1947 and the Preamble read, as

“The right of the Nagas to develop themselves according to their freely expressed wishes is recognized.” 9. Period of Agreement (The governor of Assam as the agent of the government of Indian Union will have a special responsibility for a period of ten years to ensure the due observance of this agreement; at the end of this period the Naga National council will be asked whether they require the above agreement to be extended for a further period, or a new agreement regarding the future of the Naga people arrived at.

  1. In a interview with Mahatma Gandhi at the Bhangi colony, in New Delhi on 19 July, 1947, the Naga delegation is said to have told the Mahatma Gandhi, that they were resolved to declare their own independence a day before India did so, on August 14,1947, and ask him for his help. As this, according to Phizo, Mahatma Gandhi told the Naga delegation:

“Nagas have every right to be independent. We did not want to live under the British and they are now leaving us. I want you to feel that India is yours. I feel that the Naga Hills are mine just as much as they are yours. But if you say that they are mine, the matter must stop here. I believe in the brotherhood of man, but I do not believe in force or forced unions. If you do not wish to join the Union of India, nobody will force you to do that. When the Naga delegates pointed out that Sir Akbar Hydari was threatening to do exactly that, Gandhi exclaimed; Sir Akbar is wrong! I will ask them to shoot me first before one Naga is shot” (Nibedon 1983:33).

  1. Th. Muivah in his interviewed with Shekhar Gupta, the Editor-in-Chief of Indian Express said, that Nagas were never conquered by any alien nation, including India and Nagas are the first settlers of Nagaland and we fought against the British for 48 years and they occupied a small portion. And when it was imminent that the British were to leave India and Nagaland, our men told them that any arrangement without consultation with the Nagas will not be acceptable to them…they (earlier Naga leaders were sufficiently aware of their political rights and then they went on to meet Mahatma Gandhi who gave his commitment in no uncertain terms that Nagas have every right to be independent.
  1. “None of the officers from Assam stayed for any longer period with Nagas they considered it as a punishment posting. They naturally were always keen to get out and often managed it through contacts. The question of studying Naga way of life, mixing with them, knowing them and their customs etc therefore, did not arise with them. In fact, they considered these people as subhuman, filthy and not worth mixing. Therefore, naturally a big gap was created between the Nagas and the government after the British left.

The leaders of Naga National council, therefore, exploited the situation and put up their demand of independence.” (Singh) “In conclusion this a brief picture of events after the present book had been written, my conviction in the book that there can be no peace in Nagas if negotiations with Phizo are held stands amply proved by subsequent events. My prediction that all these areas will be involved in hostile activities also stand proved by and large’ (p-197)
Ao, Tanjenyuba 1993, British occupation of Naga country, Mokochung: Naga Literature Society

Alemchiba, M. 1970, A Brief Historical Account of Nagaland, Kohima: Naga Institute of culture

Daili-Mao 1992, Nagas: Problems and Politics, New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House

Elwin Verrier 1961, Nagaland, Shillong: Research dept. Advisor’s Secretariat

Horam: Naga Polity

Maxwell, N. 1982: India, the Naga and the North East, London: The Minority Rights Group.

Mhiesizokho Zinyii, 1979, Phizo and Naga Problem

Mullick, B.N. 1972, My Years with Nehru: 1948-1964. Bombay et al: Allied Publishers

Ramunny Murkot 1993 (1988), The world of Nagas, Delhi: Northern Book center

Ram Narayan K. with L. Murthy (2004): Four Years of the Ceasefire agreement between the govt. of India and NSCN-IM: Promises and Pitfalls

Singh Kanwar Randip: (1987), The Nagas of Nagaland: Desperadoes and Heroes of Peace, Delhi; Deep and Deep Publication

Yonuo Asoso 1984 (1974), The Rising Nagas: A historical and Political study, Delhi: Manas Publication

Vashum R. (First ed.2000), Nagas’ Right to Self-Determination, Delhi: Mittal Publications

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