Divide and Rule: how to reconcile and unite? Frans Welman

Divide and Rule: how to reconcile and unite?

History of state formation

From Naga History it is evident that the Naga Peoples organically had nothing to do with the Indian subcontinent. They had no trade relations or were in touch by other modes of communication. Only because the British partially incorporated the Nagas and their lands they are now part of the Union of India. Also, the Nagas have no Cultural, Religious, Linguistic or Historical relations or affinities withIndia; in fact they only traded and communicated with their surrounding peoples. And so it was the British who made them part of their South Asian, their Indian Empire.

Though the Nagas submitted their 31 points program for honorable solution years ago so far the Government of India only agreed to one of the points, one considered to be a milestone for the Naga Peoples as a nation. Because it confirms their stand and is the basis for their desire to be sovereign; through this point ‘the unique history and situation’ as it was put in writing was recognized by the Indian side. It officially and meant the right to self determination was de facto acknowledged and thus for the Nagas this recognition opened the way to real and now amicable negotiations on the kind of relationship between the two nations. The hopes of the Nagas vanished into thin air again when the new Congress Government was installed. Though the BJP Government signed the communiqué on ‘unique history and situation’ it did not follow up on it and could not because unexpectedly the Congress Government rose to power when snap elections called for by a buoyant BJP was lost by that party.

Thinking this would make the Nagas sail easier through the peace process, as back in 1995 it was under the Congress Government that the secret talks for a ceasefire were held and concluded with its signing in 1997, proved to be a little too premature. Still, because of the recognition of the unique history questions like this were on many a Naga mind and lips: “Could this new Congress Government live up to expectations? Would it indeed strive for the honorable solution so dearly wished by the Naga Civil Society? Would the Indian military leave Nagaland any time soon?”

At the time of this hope rising and hidden from public view other forces were at work, forces with had only one aim in mind, the successful aim of the Indian Intelligence Services. It was their aim to disrupt the unity of the Nagas so resistance would fracture. The Nagas on the other hand, instead of using their intelligence to promote their cause internationally, but applied resources and time to stamp out dissension, this way attempting to prevent the Naga society from being confused about who did what, for what purpose but also to show who really represents them.


To understand this huge divide and rule project again History is the important factor. When today Naga Organizations claim to represent the Nagas it would suffice to check their credentials against their historical record. So, when the Naga National Council states it is the only true Naga Organization to represent all Nagas one has to remember the Shillong Accord of 1975 and its implications and repercussions before considering it to be a true representative. And so this question unavoidably rises: What is this Shillong Accord. Who instigated it and what did it lead to?

This Accord between India and the Naga National Council signed by some Federal Government members, among which Kevi Yallay, the brother of the NNC president who as an exile lived in London but was very much the president of the NNC, sealed the fate of the Nagas. It stipulated that the Accord had been reached voluntarily and that it was ‘under the Constitution of India’. Though this infamous Shillong Accord was not ratified by the NNC as a whole and A.Z. Phizo did not confirm it either, disarming of the Naga Army was ordered and militia were launched to effectuate disarmament; peace camps were built to house the Naga soldiers who surrendered their arms. One such camp exists to this day.

High ranking NNC leaders were enraged by the signing of the Shillong Accord; they termed it ‘a total sell out’, a total surrender. Some NNC leaders learned about this news while on a mission inChinaand denounced this Accord but pleaded with Phizo, their supreme leader, to denounce it too. He did not but later inLondonis quoted to have said that it was ‘a political game’ being played. Realizing the danger disunity could spawn they wanted to save the NNC and for five years worked on that before they founded it’s successor the National Council of Nagaland, NSCN. In between 1975 and 1980 the militias persecuted anyone who disobeyed the order handing in weapons, arrested those who were unwilling and worse killed them. NNC leaders like Isak Chishi Swu and TH. Muivah, who denounced the Shillong Accord, were also arrested and held captive in a remote area. Held captive by their own people and being threatened with death, they were ordered to dig their own graves, made these NNC leaders realize that the first major schism in the ranks of the Nagas was unavoidable. This fact could only be averted when their captors, called by them Accordists, retraced their steps to denounce the Accord too. They did not, though only years and decades later some signatories, one even on his deathbed, did so. This schism in the ranks of the Nagas festered and still permeates through all political activities.  That schism is still an open and infected wound today, its puss influencing the state of affairs.

Though the Indians masterminded the Shillong Accord to their surprise it had far more consequences than they ever anticipated. Their planned schism in Naga Society was now fact; divide and rule worked; it had worked even all the way to those who were the backbone of the NNC. The Indian Intelligence knew then that only through a revolution against the leadership of the NNC, read Phizo, could the Naga stand be saved and the national issue be salvaged. In the sixties already the Indians tried to separate the Nagas by letting those who were in favor of a Naga settlement under the constitution but with a state of their own call the shots. The Naga Peoples Council then backed up the forming of Nagaland State which was carved out of Assam and separated Nagas now living in the other new states in the Northeast of India like Arunachal Pradesh,  the remainder of Assam itself and of course Manipur.NagalandStatein 1963 was born with Naga state politicians elected by the people. Elected? Officially yes, but unofficially the practice of corruption was born too and so state politicians bought votes to gain influence and money later which was being poured in by the Government of India. Corruption was another way of divide and rule, intelligence services knew.

After the first political division of Nagaland intoNagalandState, under the constitution ofIndia, the Shillong Accord and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland took up the struggle where the Nagas of NNC had left off. For years, eight to be precise, the new Naga Forces gained strength, while behind the scenes the divide and rule gaming went on unabated. In 1988, the NSCN split into two Khaplang, until then part of the NSCN, revolted with a coup and formed his own NSCN. From then on till this day there are two rival NSCNs.

Now the question was in what way the divide and rule policy of the Indians was at work in this internal struggle. Was it because Khaplang suspected but did not know that the leaders of the NSCN without him had reached an accord with the Indians and he revolted against that? According to him, yes indeed. According to Isak Chisi Swu and Th. Muivah this was utter nonsense, the opposite was the case and it involved a participant in the formation ofNagalandState, the later Chief Minister S.C. Jamir. Jamir who had long before stated that to be within the Union of India would be the best option for the Nagas. With the eminent help of the Indians he moved heaven and earth to crack down on the Naga Forces and found in Khaplang an ally. But why would Khaplang oblige? Khaplang was dissatisfied with his position in the NSCN. As a renowned leader among his own Eastern Nagalanders, who had a different heritage of leadership compared to most other Naga tribes, could not abide by the rules of the revolutionary Government he agreed, not even when this was necessary for the formation of a Naga Nation.

Extracted from the book:  Between David and Goliath -the Conflict and Peace Talks between Nagaland and India: The Indo-Naga experience by Frans Welman, Amsterdam

To be continued…