naga question

Isak Chisi Swu (1929-2016): The Bible scholar who backed a violent struggle for a Naga homeland

In the confusing debate about which Naga tribes are authentic, Swu brought legitimacy to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah).

For many people who follow affairs in the North East only loosely, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) was an armed outfit led by a person named Isak Muivah. As it turns out, that name actually contained the identities to two people: Chairman Isak Chisi Swu and the General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah. The confusion about the group that has been fighting for a separate territory for members of the various Naga tribes was not merely semantic. Command actually lay solely with Muivah and he was the face of the deadly group that has been responsible for serial massacres, literally waging a war against the Indian state, intimidating civilians, imposing taxes, smuggling narcotics and arms and setting up smaller armed groups across the region.

On Tuesday, Chairman Isak Swu died in a Delhi hospital at the age of 87 after a prolonged illness. While Muivah was the real power behind the group, Swu was an uncharismatic guerrilla, the silent partner that provided the group some legitimacy of claiming to be a Naga outfit fighting for a cause that actually predates Indian Independence. When Swu took ill last year, the Indian government hurriedly declared an agreement to a protracted negotiation that has been going on for decades. In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that after half a century of bloodshed and some 80 rounds of talks, the Naga issue has been settled.

But when people later enquired about the terms of the so-called framework agreement that had purportedly been reached, the government’s response was that they offered nothing but dignity, respect and honour and apparently that is all the Nagas wanted (despite several thousand lives having been lost in the process).The government argued the Naga groups – which are spread across several Indian states and also Myanmar – had not discussed geographical integration in previous negotiations. Therefore the government explained integration could also be cultural and that Nagas did not need to break away from other states territorially.

This was a sure recipe for confusion. The government has yet to spell out the fine print of the agreement.

Deep roots

The roots of the insurgency are deep. In 1946, the Naga National Council urged the British not to hand their territory over to India. Since then, it has been a long and bloody resistance to break free from India. But along the way, the Naga movement was split, subverted and corrupted.

The course of this armed rebellion that had terrorised the people and the state has been deeply shaped by tribal loyalties. The early leaders like Angami Zapu Phizo were Angamis. The Aos and Angamis form the power centre of the Nagas and the Aos were not averse in talking to India. But the other tribes were divided.

Muivah took over the reins in 1988, after the National Socialist Council of Nagaland spilt into factions named IM and K (led by SS Khaplang). But he is a Thangkul and his tribe geographically (and historically) falls within Manipur. In one indication of how the struggle for the integration of Naga-inhabited areas or the demand for Greater Nagaland or Nagalim remains violently contested and imagined, the Thangkuls are called “kaccha Nagas” and the major tribes do not see them as true representative of the Nagas of Nagaland.

That is why Muivah always had Swu next to him, a Sema Naga who allowed him to claim the authentic voice of the Nagas. Swu, however, is said to have spent most of his life in his Bible studies, leaving Muivah to call the shots.

With Swu gone and an agreement that has no clarity whatsoever, the road ahead could spell trouble. The NSCN(K) broke away from talks with the government last year and has been since striking hard at Indian security forces. It is now likely to try to swiftly move in and gain ground in the bitter turf war. Khaplang is a Hemi Naga from Myanamar and a contested claimant to the Naga war of resistance.

A real Naga

Swu was always a shadow and not exactly a leader from whom the Nagas would expect anything. But he was still “one of our own”, they would say, unlike Muivah. So he will be forgotten easily. The ageing Muivah does not have many options before him to replace his comrade. If he chooses a Thangkul, the group will be out of the great game. Many other Naga leaders are too old to take over.

Perhaps this something the Indian government interlocutor RN Ravi (who signed the framework agreement) and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had anticipated. They made the NSCN(IM) the representative group, keeping in mind its armed strength and capabilities but also tribal dynamics. The NSCN(K) operates primarily from Myanmar and the Indian government is trying to carry out strikes there.

The Naga people are tired of talks, of the illegal taxation imposed by the armed groups, of guns and blood and of the past. But they will fiercely demand that the government come clean and be sincere and honest in whatever has been agreed upon. They deserve some peace.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

The qualities of a high-performance luxury sedan

A lesson in harnessing tremendous power to deliver high performance.

Gone are the days when the rich and successful would network during a round of golf, at least in the Silicon Valley. As reported by New York Times, ‘auto-racing has become a favourite hobby for the tech elites’. However, getting together on a race track would require a machine that provides control while testing extreme limits. Enter the Mercedes-AMG range of cars.

Mercedes-AMG’s rise from a racing outfit to a manufacturer of peak performance cars is dotted with innovations that have pushed the boundaries of engineering. While the AMG series promises a smooth driving experience, its core is made up of a passion for motorsports and a spirit that can be summarized in two words – power and performance. These integral traits draw like-minded people who share and express Mercedes-AMG’s style of performance.

The cars we drive say a lot about us, it’s been said. There are several qualities of an AMG performance luxury sedan that overlap with the qualities of its distinguished owner. For instance, creating an impression comes naturally to both, so does the ambition to always deliver an exceptional performance. However, the strongest feature is that both the owner and the AMG marque continually challenge themselves in pursuit of new goals, stretching the limits of performance.

This winning quality comes alive, especially, in the latest Mercedes-AMG marque – the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+. With the most powerful engine to have ever been installed in an E-class, this undisputed performance sedan promises immense power at the driver’s command. With 612 HP under its hood, the car achieves 0-100 km/h in just a few seconds - 3.4 to be precise. Moreover, the car comes with the latest driver-assistance technology that promises intelligent control and provides an agile and responsive ride.

But, the new AMG is not just about work (or traction in car lingo). One of its core features is to provide its owners a challenge on the race track. Its drift mode, which converts the vehicle into a pure rear-wheel drive, offers pure exhilaration and adds a work-play dynamic to the car. In that sense, the new AMG is a collaborator of sorts - one that partners with its owner to create an impression through performance. And on the weekends, the car pushes him/her to express absolute power using its race mode with a thunderous roar of the engine - the pure sound of adrenalin. This balance between work and play has been achieved using cutting-edge features in the car that together create an almost intuitive driver-machine relationship.

If you’re looking for a car that shares your enthusiasm for driving, you’ll find a partner in the new AMG. However, buying an AMG is not just about owning a powerhouse on wheels, it’s also about adopting a driving philosophy in which power is just the starting point - the main skill lies in how you manoeuvre that power on the road. A performance sedan in its sportiest form, Mercedes-AMG’s latest model takes vehicle performance to an unmatched level. A decade ago, this amount of speed and power in a luxury 4-door model would be un-thinkable.

Play

The new Mercedes-AMG comes with a host of individualisation options through designo, the artistic side of Mercedes’s innovation, so the car becomes an extension of the owner’s distinctive personality. An expressive design with a new radiator grille and a muscular front apron showcase its athleticism. A new-age driver environment, widescreen cockpit, the AMG performance steering wheel and sports seat delivers an intensive driving experience. With the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+, AMG has created an undisputed performance sedan that can rip the race track as well as provide reliable luxury sedan-duty. To know more about the most powerful E-class of all time, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Mercedes-Benz and not by the Scroll editorial team.