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Assessment for Nagas in India

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2000
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Nagas in India, 31 December 2000, available at: [accessed 23 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
India Facts
Area:    3,287,590 sq. km.
Capital:    New Delhi
Total Population:    984,004,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Nagas in India have four of the factors that increase the likelihood of continuing rebellion: current rebellion; territorial concentration; repression by the government; and lost autonomy due to their inclusion in the Indian union in 1947. Factors which could possibly inhibit future militant actions include the Naga populace's desire for an end to violence and the government=s promotion of economic development. In addition, India has a tradition of negotiating agreements that provide various separatist groups with some degree of autonomy. In 2000 India was also able to convince Burma to start closing down NSCN bases which would limit rebel activities. Analysts believe that a settlement with the Nagas, which is India=s longest running rebellion, could hold the key for future peace in the strife-torn northeast region.

Analytic Summary

While the Nagas primarily reside in the northeast Indian state of Nagaland, they are also a minority in Manipur state and in the neighboring country of Burma. Of Tibeto-Burman origins, the Nagas moved into the traditionally isolated northeast of India prior to the 1800s (RACE = 3). There has been no significant migration of Nagas to other regions of India; however, groups such as the Bengalis from Bangladesh have moved into Naga-dominated areas in recent decades.

There are 16 main Naga tribal groups, most of which speak their own distinct languages (LANG = 2). The social customs of the Nagas have more in common with other tribal groups in the northeast than with the country=s majority Hindu population. Nagaland is one of India's only two Christian majority states (the other is Mizoram) (BELIEF = 3). Christianity was brought into the northeast early in the 20th century by American Baptist missionaries.

Until British colonial rule was extended into the northeast, the Nagas remained socially isolated from the majority of India. The Nagas were granted special status under the British. However, even prior to the independence of India, the Nagas sought greater political control over their own affairs, including avoiding incorporation into India (PROT45X = 2). There has been limited economic development in the northeast, despite the changes that have occurred in the rest of India. The Nagas are disadvantaged due to past and current political and economic discrimination, mostly from the majority community. While the creation of the state of Nagaland in 1963 has provided greater opportunities for political participation for the tribals, they still remain underrepresented.

The majority of Nagas support obtaining widespread autonomy within the Indian union while a significant minority is seeking the creation of an independent Nagalim state (SEPX = 2). This state of Nagalim would encompass Nagaland along with Naga-dominated regions in India's Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, and Manipur states along with Naga areas in neighboring Burma. Limited economic opportunities are also a key grievance among the Nagas along with concerns about the protection of their religious and cultural rights, particularly after violent attacks against Christians by alleged right-wing Hindus in other parts of India in 1999 and 2000.

Since the late 1920s, various Naga groups have politically mobilized to obtain special status for their peoples. The interests of the Nagas are promoted mainly by conventional organizations but also by militant organizations such as the NSCN (Nagaland Socialist Council of Nagalim) which has limited support. It is estimated that more than 2/3 of the Naga population support these various organizations. The main Naga rebel group, the NSCN, is splintered into two factions which follow different leaders: the NSCN (Isaac-Muivah) and the NSCN (Khaplang) (COHES9X = 3). The NSCN (I-M), which appears to have broader group support, advocates the creation of an independent Nagalim state. Sporadic armed clashes broke out between the two NSCN factions in both 1999 and 2000. The NSCN factions have bases and training facilities in the neighboring countries of Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Burma, and in 2000 it was reported that the group received light arms from China. The Naga Hoho (apex tribal council) has recently attempted to bring the two factions together as part of the process of negotiations with the government.

The relationship between the Nagas and another tribal group, the Kukis, who primarily reside in Manipur, has been volatile in recent years. More than one thousand people have died in Naga-Kuki clashes since 1992; however, in 2000 there were no reported incidents between the two groups. There are more than 200,000 security forces personnel deployed in Nagaland. Residents are subjected to restrictions on their movements, potential rebel supporters were arrested in 1999 and 2000, and the government continued its military campaign against the NSCN factions.

Naga protests in the form of large-scale strikes and demonstrations have been widely used from 1997 to 2000 (PROT98X = 5 PROT00 = 5). Militant actions in support of greater autonomy or independence began in the mid-1950s but the rebel campaign has been largely sustained since the mid-1980s by the NSCN (REBEL55X = 6). Negotiations between the federal government and the NSCN (I-M) began in 1997 and continued through 2000; a formal ceasefire was reached in 1997 and it has been continually extended despite violations by both sides. The major issues to be negotiated are the degree of autonomy and whether Naga-dominant areas outside Nagaland would be included in any peace agreement.


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