With the possibility of New Delhi concluding a final agreement with the NSCN(IM) before Christmas have arisen fresh apprehensions in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur that large chunks of their territories may be lost to a “Greater Nagalim”.
The map of Greater Nagalim on the NSCN(IM) website comprising “all Naga-inhabited areas” shows a 1,20,000 sq km sprawl across the Northeast and Myanmar. It covers a sizeable portion of Assam’s Tinsukia, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts; all of Longding, Tirap, Changlang, Lohit and Namsai districts in Arunachal; and large parts of Manipur’s Ukhrul, Senapati, Chandel and Tamenglong districts. The area of Nagaland state is only 16,527 sq km, a fraction of the NSCN(IM)’s “Greater Nagalim”.
NSCN(IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah said a few months ago that “the historic Framework Agreement” signed with the government of India in August 2015 “recognises the legitimate right of the Nagas to integration of all Naga territories”. However, it took over two years after the signing of the Framework Agreement — until November 17 this year — for a Working Committee of six Naga National Political Groups to sign another agreement with R N Ravi, the government interlocutor for the Naga peace process, as part of the run-up to the final accord.
Last week, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) protested in Sarupathar in Golaghat, alleging that Nagaland had established a new subdivision within the district. “The Nagaland government has opened a new subdivision inside the Dhansiri subdivision of Golaghat district. With a final settlement with NSCN(IM) getting closer, fresh encroachments have taken place in Charaideu, Golaghat, Sivasagar and Jorhat districts,” Lurin Jyoti Gogoi, AASU general secretary, said.
Nagaland was created in 1963 out of the then Naga Hills district of Assam and Tuensang division of the then Northeast Frontier Agency NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh). Since the late 1960s, Assam has complained of encroachment by Nagaland — it says Nagaland is squatting on more than 66,000 hectares in Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat and Karbi Anglong districts. Over 80% of this land is reserved forest. Assam says Nagaland has set up three civil subdivisions on Assamese territory. Friction over the boundary has led to several rounds of violence, leading to over a hundred deaths.
Nagaland insists that more land that has “historically” belonged to the Nagas continues to remain under Assam’s “occupation”. The state says that the 16-point agreement of 1960 that led to its creation included the “restoration” of all Naga territories transferred out of the Naga Hills after the British annexed Assam in 1826. The Nagaland Assembly has endorsed the demand for “integration of all Naga-inhabited areas” as many as five times — in December 1964, August 1970, September 1994, December 2003 and on July 27, 2015.
***Over the last four decades, a series of meetings have been held at all levels. In August 1971, the Centre appointed KVK Sundaram, then Chairman of the Law Commission, as Adviser in the Home Ministry on Assam-Nagaland. Nagaland rejected Sundaram’s suggestion of a joint survey of the border, but signed four interim agreements in 1972 to maintain the status quo.
On January 25, 1979, Prime Minister Morarji Desai asked Nagaland Chief Minister Vizol Angami to take firm action against “miscreants” on the Nagaland side of the boundary. In March 1981, Home Minister Giani Zail Singh asked the two states to resolve the issue through discussions. In 1988, Assam filed a title suit in the Supreme Court to determine and delineate the constitutional boundary. In September 2006, the court set up a three-member Local Commission headed by a retired SC judge to identify the boundary. This panel submitted its report a couple of years ago, but a decision remains pending.
Civil society groups in Manipur, too, have been apprehensive. Three major groups, the United Committee Manipur (UCM), All Manipur United Clubs’ Association (AMUCO) and Committee for Civil Societies of Kangleipak (CCSK) vowed this month not to allow the Framework Agreement to affect the territorial integrity of the state. Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who had declared soon after assuming office earlier this year that “the territorial integrity of Manipur is dearer than my life”, assured an all-party meeting in Imphal three weeks ago that his BJP-led government would protect Manipur’s territory.
The sentiment in Arunachal is similar. “There can be no question of inclusion of any portion of Arunachal Pradesh in the NSCN(IM)’s Greater Nagalim,” the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has said in a statement.
The tensions are palpable. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has met the union Home Minister twice over the past one month, seeking an assurance that no part of the state would be included in the “Greater Nagalim”.
“The stand of the Assam government is clear; we will not allow any change to the state’s geography,” Sonowal recently said.