Dawn of Peace in Nagaland

 

Close on the heels of the ushering in of the State, efforts for peace for an amicable solution to the vexed political problems took concrete and positive shape. In this venture for peace, the major role was taken by the Nagaland Baptist Church Convention (NBCC). In its third Convention held at Wokha from January 31 to February 2, 1964 which was said to have been attended by five thousand representatives from all tribes of Nagaland, the NBCC made a historic resolution welcoming the proposed "Peace-Talk" and to request the Government to make available the services of Mr. Jayaprakesh Narayan, Mr. Shankar Deva, Mr. Bimala Prasad Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott with the sole object of exploring ways & means for the speedy restoration of peace and normalcy in Nagaland.

It was on the basis of this resolution that the historic ‘Peace Mission’ was formed with the aforesaid personalities. Mr. Shankar Deva could not join the Peace Mission because of illness but the selfish and tireless services rendered by Rev. Michael Scott, an Anglican Churchman, Mr. Jayaprakesh Narayan, a devout Gandhian and a well known Sarvodaya leader, and Mr. B.P. Chaliha, the then Chief Minister of Assam are all too well-known to us.

AGREEMENT FOR CESSATION OF FIRE

The relentless endeavor of the Peace Mission actively supported by the church leaders headed by Rev. Longri Ao and the liberal help and patronage of the State Government, had finally resulted in an agreement for Cessation of Fire signed by the then Governor Mr. Vishnu Sahay, on behalf of the Government of India and the Peace Mission while Mr. Zashei Huire, Mr. Biseto Medom and Mr. L. Benito had signed on behalf of the underground government.

Even though the agreement was officially declared on September 6, 1964 by organising public meetings and special prayer meetings all over Nagaland, the actual agreement was signed on May 23, 1964 at Sakraba Village in Phek district. The "Cease-Fire" was welcomed by all peace loving people of Nagaland and there was a general sigh of relief, hope and happiness all around. September 6, 1964 was really a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the people of Nagaland.

The declaration of "Cease-Fire" was followed by a series of peace talks primarily between the members of the peace mission, the underground leaders and team of peace observers. Eventually, the level of talks was raised and the venue shifted to Delhi culminating in six rounds of talks in 1966 to 1967 between the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the underground leaders.

PEACE TALKS

The first round was held on February 18-19 in New Delhi and the underground delegation was led by Mr. Kughato Sukhai, their "Prime Minister". The other members were Mr. Imkongmeren, "Vice President", Mr. Issac Swu, "Foreign Secretary" and two others namely Mr. S. Angami and Mr. Dallinamo. The final round of talk with the Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi was held in New Delhi on October 3, 1967. In all peace talks in New Delhi, the underground delegation was led by Mr. Kughato Sukhai. However, no positive agreement could be reached as a result of these talks.

PERIOD OF UNCERTAINITY

The failure to settle the underground problem by the preceding peace talks had created an air of uncertainty in the minds of the people. There were charges and countercharges between the Security forces and the Insurgents for breach of the terms of the agreement. On August 3, 1968, "Gen" Kaito, a prominent underground leader, was assassinated in broad day light in the heart of Kohima town. On August 8, 1972, the Chief Minister Mr. Hokishe Sema was ambushed by the suspected undergrounds near Kohima. The Chief Minister had a miraculous escape without any bodily harm but his daughter was seriously injured.

This was closely followed by two major developments of the time. On August 31, 1972, the Government banned the three underground bodies i.e The Naga National Council, the Naga Federal Government, and the Federal Army. Secondly, the Government decided not to give extension to the Cessation of fire agreement (cease fire) any more.

PEACE EFFORT RENEWED

Though the peace mission was dissolved when Rev. Michael Scott left India in 1966 and the Peace Observer Team wound up with the Cessation of cease fire in 1972, the efforts for peace was never really abandoned. The Nagaland Peace Council (NPC) was formed again at the initiative of the Church leaders and talks and discussion for peace continued. The effort was stepped up with renewed vigour after the President’s Rule was promulgated in March 1975.

In May, 1975 the Liaison Committee of the NPC, consisting of Rev. Longri Ao, Kenneth Kerhuo, L. Lungalang, Dr. M. Aram and Lungshim Shaiza, had initiated Mr. Kevi Yalley to come out as a "Contact Man" and was given safe-conduct by Nagaland Government. Next the underground leaders selected six of their representatives to have discussion with the Government. This was closely followed by a series of five talks between the underground representatives and the Government represented by the two advisers to the Governor, Mr. Z. Zopianga and Mr. Ramunny.

SHILLONG ACCORD

To cut a long story short, all these hectic discussion had finally resulted in the historic "Shillong" signed at Shillong on November 11, 1975, by the Governor of Nagaland Mr. L.P Singh representing the Government of India and the underground leadership represented by Mr. Assa and Mr. Kevi Yalley.

The signing of the Shillong Accord had ushered in a general feeling of well-being all throughout and hope for peace and for a final solution of the twenty year old conflict once again appeared in the horizon. The immediate result was a large scale surrender of arms and personnel. The "villagers" themselves actively cooperated by contacting and persuading their underground brother s and sisters to come out and join the mainstream of life. Within no time, 5 districts of the State were move or less cleared of the underground elements. From then onwards, there was practically no problem of insurgency inside Nagaland and the peaceful atmosphere prevailed throughout facilitating a spurt of development works for the people who were already neglected for too long and suffered so much.

CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT 1997

Renewed spurts of violence have been witnessed in the State from the middle of nineteen eighties. The fratricidal confrontations amongst the various Naga groups and the State authorities led to loss of life, seriously disturbed the Public order and thwarted the economic development of the State.

The people became disenchanted with the violence and yearned for peace. The Government of India heeded to the wishes of the people and on 25 July, 1997, the Prime Minister, Mr. I. K.Gujral making a Statement in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha announced that the Government after talks with Isaac-Muivah group of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) declared a cease-fire or cessation of operations with effect from I August, 1997 for a period of three months. The cease-fire has since been extended.

The declaration of "cease-fire" was followed by setting up of a Cease-fire Monitoring Cell to enforce the Ground Rules as laid down by Government of India. Recently the ceasefire has been extended for another year with effect from 1st August 2000.

 

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