Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)
Integration of Nagaland
- The Nagas were the inhabitants of the Naga hills along the Northeast frontier on the Assam-Burma border.
- Immediately after independence, the Government of India followed a policy of integrating the Naga areas with the state of Assam and India as a whole.
- A section of the Naga leadership, however, opposed such integration and rose in rebellion under the leadership of A.Z. Phizo, demanding separation from India and complete independence.
- The Government of India responded with a two-track policy in line with Jawaharlal Nehru’s wider approach towards the tribal people discussed earlier in this chapter.
- On the one hand, the Government of India made it clear that it would firmly oppose the secessionist demand for the independence of Naga areas and would not tolerate recourse to violence.
- On the other hand, Nehru realized that total physical suppression by military action was neither possible nor desirable, for the objective had to be the conciliation and winning over of the Naga people.
- Nehru was wedded to a ‘friendly approach’. Even while encouraging the Nagas to integrate with the rest of the country, he favoured their right to maintain their autonomy in cultural and other matters. He was, therefore, willing to go a long way to win over the Nagas by granting them a large degree of autonomy .
- Refusing to negotiate with Phizo or his supporters as long as they did not give up their demand for independence or the armed rebellion, he carried on prolonged negotiations with the more moderate, non-violent and non-secessionist Naga leaders.
- Once the back of the armed rebellion was broken by the middle of 1957, the more moderate Naga leaders headed by Dr Imkongliba Ao came to the fore. They negotiated for the creation of the state of Nagaland within the Indian Union. The Government of India accepted their demand steps; and the state of Nagaland came into existence in 1963.
- With the formation of Nagaland as a state the back of the rebellion was broken as the rebels lost much of their popular support. But though the insurgency has been brought under control, sporadic guerrilla activity by Naga rebels trained in China, Pakistan and Myanmar and periodic terrorist attacks continue till this day.
Integration of Mizoram
- A situation similar to that in Nagaland developed a few y ears later in the autonomous Mizo district of the Northeast.
- Unhappiness with the Assam government’s relief measures during the famine of 1959 and the passage of the Act in 1961, making Assamese the official language of the state, led to the formation of the Mizo National Front (MNF), with Laldenga as president.
- In 1966, the MNF declared independence from India, proclaimed a military uprising and attacked military and civilian targets.
- The Government of India responded with immediate massive counter-insurgency measures by the army . Within a few weeks the insurrection was crushed and government control restored, though stray guerrilla activity continued. Most of the hard-core Mizo leaders escaped to East Pakistan.
- In 1973, after the less extremist Mizo leaders had scaled down their demand to that of a separate state of Mizoram within the Indian Union, the Mizo district of Assam was separated from Assam and, as Mizoram, given the status of a Union Territory.
- Mizo insurgency gained some renewed strength in the late 1970s but was again effectively dealt with by the Indian armed forces.
- A settlement was finally arrived at in 1986. Laldenga and the MNF agreed to abandon underground violent activities, surrender before the Indian authorities along with their arms, and re-enter the constitutional political stream.
- The Government of India agreed to the grant of full statehood to Mizoram, guaranteeing full autonomy in regard to culture, tradition, land laws, etc.
- As a part of the accord, a government with Laldenga as chief minister was formed in the new state of Mizoram in February 1987.