Historical Background

Nagaland Revisited


In the institutional evolution for 'responsible government' of British India, i.e., from the conclusion of 1857 war of independence or Mutiny upto the total transfer of power in August 1947, Naga domain was always recognized as laying outside their jurisdiction, and it was referred to variously as, "Dependent" or "Non-administered" area, Excluded Area, or Tribal and Excluded Areas. The term 'dependent' or 'dependency' was applied to the Naga territories' "control" by British through its Political agent stationed in the vassal state ('princely state') of Manipur. The Manipur Raja's Darbar (Council) with a British President which runs the government of the kingdom had no direct jurisdiction over the Nagas and their lands. It was only towards the end of year 1919 that British decided to extend colonial administration to the 'dependent hill tribes.' The difference between the territory of the kingdom for which the government of the kingdom had full administrative jurisdiction and the 'dependent hill tribes' is stated clearly in all relevant State Papers—The Manipur State Sanad of April 1892 (regranting state to Manipur after it was crushed during a rebellion), The Rules for the administration of the Manipur State, including the dependent hill tribes, Government of India letter No. 4326,1. A., dated 1st October 1919, etc.

The Raja probably saw the decision to establish colonial administration over the 'hill tribes' as an opportunity to expand his own domain, and made several attempts. However, in July 1939 during the course of negotiation to join the proposed Federation under the Government of India Act 1935 "he agreed in a letter dated July 21", 1939, to federate on terms, which covered the exclusion of the Hills from his direct control." [Governor Reid, see Sir Robert Reid : History of the Frontier Areas Bordering Assam 1883-1941, Government Press. Shillong, 1942, page 95]

The Naga territories taken "control" through British Province of Assam [British annexed it directly when the Burmese vacated it] was designated as Tribal and Excluded Area. The head of the Assam government was, in his capacity as agent of the representative of the Crown, was responsible for government of this territory. It was subsequently converted into the Naga Hills district.

Inside the overall British colonial practice, the territories designated as '"dependent" or " non-administered", or simply as "Tribal", or "Excluded", all these came under the foreign department, or the secret department, later it was changed to External Affairs. It was in continuation of this tradition that the state of Nagaland established under the Sixteen Points Agreement was placed in India's External Affairs Ministry until 1972, when it was unilaterally moved to Home Ministry on 19 May 1972[The State Assembly protested strongly and through an unanimous resolution demanded to revert back to the External Affairs Ministry, which was ignored completely].

Instruments used to divide the Ttbeto-Burman speaking Nagas internationally between India and Burma :
—   by British colonialists through the Treaty of Peace at Yandaboo in 1826,
—   by British colonialists through the Pemberton Line in 1934,
—   by British colonialists through the Government of Burma Act 1935 and,
—   later, by Indian colonialists through the Indo-Burma Border Agreement of 1978.

On the Naga country by Britain and India :
"It would seem that the whole of the Naga Hills became part of the British Empire (theoretically at least) at the time of our conquest of Assam."
— quoted in Officiating Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Assam, No. 2161, Dated 22nd June, 1889, in Foreign Department, External A, National Archives, New Delhi.
"The existing structure of the States of the Indian Union is partly the result of accident and the circumstances attending the ground of British power in India and partly a by-product of the historic process of integration of former Indian states. The division of India during the British period into British provinces and Indian States was itself fortuitous and had no basis in Indian history. The map of the territories annexed and directly administered by the British was also not shaped by any rational or scientific planning."
[See Government of India, Report of the States Reorganization Commission 1955 (Delhi: Manager of Publications), p. 1.]
Facts :
—   British extended their dominance over Assam officially in 1826 by making it a "vassal state." Naga areas were subsequently encroached.
—   First military intrusion into Naga areas by Britishers began as early as 1832.
—   Administrative unit was materialized only in 1852 with its capital at first at Asaloo (Nowgong District in present Assam state), which was therein shifted to Samaguting in 1866 (and, finally, to Kohima).
—   In 1874 administrative capital was transferred to the new Chief Commissionership of Assam and in the same year the Naga Hills District was declared as a "Scheduled District," through the Scheduled Districts Act, 1874.
—   The District was bifurcated with expansion of sub-divisions at Wokha (1875) and Mokokchung (1890).
—   This expanded area remained under the Governorship of Assam and in the Government of India Act, 1919, it was declared a "Backward Tract"!
—   The status of 'backward tract' was changed to "Excluded Area" on 3 March, 1936.
—   On the other hand the British colonialists maintained an administrative unit defined as "Uncontrolled Areas," called as "The Kaga Tribal Area," but which was still placed under the patronage of the Provincial Government!
—   The bifurcation of Naga areas into administering units of Manipur and Naga Hill District was settled in 1873, although "proposals were put forward" as early as 1842 by Lt. Bigge [quoted in Hokishe Sema, Emergence of Nagaland : Socio- Political and Political Transformation and the Future (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd, 1986), pp. 238-72.]
—   Nagaland state became the first administrative unit to be carved from erstwhile Assam through the 13th Constitution Amendment Act of 1962, through the North Eastern Area (Reorganization) Act of 1971, which was promulgated through the 27th Constitution Amendment Act. The administrative unit of Manipur was formed as a full-fledged state in January 1972. Arunachal Pradesh, similarly was given statehood in 1987 through the 55th Constitution Amendment Act of 1986.
—   On March, 1967 the Indo-Burmese Border Agreement was arbitrarily signed, legitimizing the division of Nagas into the international boundary between India and Burma.
—   Further, a 15 km wide belt along the international boundary was also imposed with the Disturbed Area Act (Section 5), under the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act, 1958.
—   The Bengal Regulation Act of 1873, which was later incorporated by free India as Inner Line Permit (Restricted Area Permit), prohibits the entry of foreign nationals and plain settlers without prior permit or in formation to the GOI, Ministry of External affaris.

Considering the extensive historical background the Nagas have every right to raise the question whether Nagaland really belongs to India and Mayanmar?

After more than 60 years of war between the three nations hardly a soul questions the idea of Nagaland belonging to India and/or Myaninar or that it could, even, should be independent. Proper historical research on the facts about the British handover of Nagaland to India/Myanmar was not undertaken or was ignored and as such it became commonly understood as fact. And, when Jawaharlal Nehru, then PM of India, and U Nu, president of then Burma now Myanmar, decided in that fateful year 1953 on a border between these two nations without consulting the Naga populations, nobody questioned the legitimacy of it.

It was against the expressed decision of the Nagas. But it goes much deeper. In India's case, It is in total violation of the ten years treaty of Guardian-Protectorate relationship signed by the Interim Government under Nehru's leadership on June 26, 1947 with the NNC. This ten years treaty goes by the name, The Nine Points Agreement, and it is recognized by the Parliament of the Republic of India. For instance, Nehru told Parliament, in 1956 during debate on the Naga Hills situation, "India has honored The Nine Points Agreement". A note on The Nine Points Agreement, in the War and Peace in Nagaland (pp 63-64), written by India's former Secretary of External Affairs, also confirms the fact that the Government of India gave assurance that it was committed to Implement the Agreement. [YD Gundevia; War and Peace in Nagaland, Palit and Palit, Delhi, 1975]

In the not too remote past a well known Naga scholar tried to find this evidence in the colonial archives of the British Library  in London. Since this research was a costly affair he was forced to abandon it.

But why Nagas should prove Nagaland does not belong to either country but to the Nagas themselves? After all, the British colonized less than one-third of the Naga inhabited areas while determining the rest as 'un-administered areas of the FREE Nagas'. On the basis of what right then did Nehru and U Nu divide the Nagas internationally between them? However it is Britain and in connection India who hold the key to conclusive evidence of Nagaland officially having been handed over to emerging India.

Consequently, on the basis of lack of evidence the Naga International Support Center, NISC, even Nagas themselves have come to the understanding that it is India and Myanmar, with conclusive evidence, should prove that the Naga lands really belong to them.

Because they have culturally, linguistically, historically, religiously nor commercially little to nothing in common with India and/or Burma a day before India did the Nagas declared independence. The United Nations acknowledged reception of the wire but, likewise the British, kept quiet about it.

Now, almost 70 years later the Naga movement questions this British position India took advantage of. As India annexed their lands knowing the Nagas wanted to govern themselves; when the British would leave already in 1929 they told the Simon Commission to be left alone: "You came and you colonized a part of our people and their lands and when you leave we will be as we were, on our own!"

So after six decades of war, India and Myanmar should come up with proof! Show the accession papers which, no doubt, Great Britain signed to that effect!

If India and Myanmar fail to do so then both nations illegally invaded and occupied Nagaland and should withdraw immediately. In fact in the wake of this they could be held accountable for the mischief and misery they caused and sentenced to redeem the losses incurred.

Considering the present Peace Talks and Peace Accord between the Nagas and India it suffices to note that when India cannot prove it owns Nagaland, it should then leave immediately and free all political prisoners which it should have done already after they announced the Peace Accord of August 3, 2015.

Vol. 48, No. 19, Nov 15 - 21, 2015