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National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN)
NSCN (IM) National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah)

The movement for a sovereign Nagaland by Nagas was one of the first major challenges to India's nation-building process. The Naga National Council (NNC) under Angami Zapu Phizo initially led the early revolt. Naga insurgents received training from China and Pakistan in the 1960s and 1970s, with some insurgents trekking across Burma to reach southwest China. In 1975 NNC moderates accepted the Indian Constitution following the Shillong Accord with New Delhi. However, NNC radicals subsequently formed the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) in 1980 demanding a greater Nagaland encompassing all Naga inhabited areas in India's northeast.

NSCN split in 1988 with one faction under Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah and the other led by S. Khaplang. The NSCN (Isak-Muivah) (NSCN-IM) emerged as the more powerful of the two factions. A cease-fire was initiated between GOI and NSCN-IM in 1997, but negotiations have not progressed significantly. In April 2000 the NSCN-Khaplang (NSCN-K) declared a cease-fire, but no productive talks have resulted.

The larger NSCN-IM operates primarily in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. NSCN-K is more limited to Burma and parts of Nagaland. The NSCN-IM's objective is to establish Greater Nagaland (Nagalim) consisting of all Naga inhabited areas in Northeast India. The outfit has links in Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand and the Netherlands. General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and Chairman Isak Chisi Swu were negotiating for a peace settlement with GOI, and have virtually given up the demand for sovereignty.

The National Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was the pioneer in the use of the Internet for propaganda and probably the most meticulous. Their Website has the map of 'Greater Nagaland' they are fighting to 'liberate', major press releases are maintained on their sites, insurgent leaders are using it to air their opinions and they also have details of the Indian Army's deployment.

The NSCN-IM is an insurgent group of Nagas, operating in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh. The Tangkhul tribe of Nagas based in the Manipur hills dominates the outfit. The estimated cadre strength was 4,500 as of 2005. The NSCN-IM's objective is to establish Greater Nagaland (Nagalim) consisting of all Naga inhabited areas in Northeast India. The outfit has linkages in Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand and the Netherlands.

In 2001 the Government of India 'formally' entered into a cease-fire on 28th May with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland under SS Kaplang and Kitovi Zhimomi for a period of one-year, which is 'applicable to the Nagaland State only.' The cease-fire was further extended on 14th June for another year between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim under Isak Swu, Khadao Yanthan and Th. Muivah as two entities 'without territorial limits.' On the 27 July 2001, leaders of four apex Naga social organization, Naga peoples movement for human rights (NPMHR) Naga Students Federation (NSF) Naga Hoho (NH) and United Naga Council (UNC) met the Prime Minister of India, Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee at New Delhi in his official residence. He assured the Naga delegation that the views and opinions of Nagas would be taken into consideration while reviewing the cease-fire.

By 2005 General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and Chairman Isak Chisi Swu were negotiating for a peace settlement with GOI, and had virtually given up the demand for full sovereignty. During the BJP regime at the Center, New Delhi acknowledged the "unique history" of the Nagas, something that the NSCN interpreted as a sign of a positive direction in the negotiations. In January 2003, the NSCN-IM leadership, until then living in exile either in Bangkok or in Amsterdam, visited India after decades for talks with the GOI. Despite the optimism, the two sides reached no substantial agreements.

With the new Congress government in New Delhi since May 2004, the peace negotiations remained deadlocked. The UPA Government's Common Minimum Program described the borders of the Northeast states as inviolable. This means that the demand for Greater Nagaland (comprising parts of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh) cannot be met. That said, it was the vehement - and in the past violent - opposition of the neighboring states that really constrained the Center from agreeing to re-draw the state boundaries on strictly ethnic lines. On other issues, the GOI is quite flexible and is believed to have unofficially agreed to the rebels' demand for greater autonomy in all departments barring currency, external affairs, communication and defense, but the NSCN-IM leadership was unwilling to compromise on the question of territorial integrity of Naga inhabited areas.

The issue is highly contentious since the NSCN-IM's leadership is dominated by Tangkhuls, who are mostly from Manipur. The NSCN-IM called on Nagas to be prepared for any eventuality, implicitly threatening the GOI with a return to arms. The outfit's charter of demands also includes a separate flag, opening of trade and tourism centers under the new Naga flag, control over taxation, greater control over natural resources and a new name for the state assembly in their ethnic language. The rebel leaders returned to India in December 2004, but departed again in early July 2005, apparently without having achieved any progress in the talks.


NSCN was formed on 31 January 1980 by Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and SS Khaplang opposing the Shillong Accord signed by the then NNC (Naga National Council) with the Indian government. Since then it has been carrying on an armed struggle to end Indian sovereignty over the Naga people and establish a People's Republic of Nagaland. The Indian government's persistent efforts to start a dialogue process created differences among the leadership of NSCN and this disagreement took its toll on the organisation. On 30 April 1988, after an attempt to assassinate Muivah failed, in which several of the cadres were killed, the NSCN split into two factions namely the NSCN (K) led by SS Khaplang, NSCN (IM) the NSCN led by Isak and Muivah. The former suspected Isak and Muivah of secretly initiating talks with the Indian government.

NSCN (IM), as the dominant insurgent group in Nagaland, has been active in violent activities to further its cause. In May 1994, it was believed to be responsible for the massacre of sixteen people in a church in Nagaland. In December 1996, NSCN guerrillas boarded a bus in Guwahati (Nagaland), killed thirty people and injured a further twenty-four, all of whom were Kuki tribesman. A ceasefire was agreed upon between the group and the government in 1997 and came into operation on 1 August 1997. But it ran into rough weather when the Indian government, in April 1998, alleged that the NSCN had killed eight soldiers. On 29 November 1999, an attempt was made on the life of the Chief Minister of Nagaland, SC Jamir. The organisation suffered a major set back in January 2000 when its General Secretary Muivah was arrested in Thailand while travelling on a false South Korean passport. He was released on bail, but he was arrested again when he tried to leave the country and was sentenced to one year in prison. (To date he continues to languish in prison. In addition, the trial process for the passport forgery case has begun. The cease-fire came to an end on 31 July 2000. In the meanwhile, the Indian government and the NSCN (IM) have agreed to extend the cease-fire for one more year after a meeting in Bangkok). 


The entire activity of the organisation is aimed at achieving three alternate objectives. The first alternative is about establishing an independent Nagaland comprising of the present territory of Nagaland and the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur and Myanmar. The second alternative aims at integrating the Naga inhabited districts of Manipur into a new state under the Indian constitution. The last alternative seeks to form a Southern Nagaland comprising the districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong within the Indian Union. 

Its manifesto is based on the principle of socialism for economic development and a spiritual outlook Nagaland for Christ.


NSCN (IM) tries to use the growing discontent among the different ethnic groups of the northeast region against the Indian state. This, it believes, will accelerate the disintegration of the latter and help the cause of Naga independence. With this objective in mind, it provides logistic support to other ethnic insurgent groups in the region like ULFA, NDFB, NLFT and PLA. It supports the militancy in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir. 

In addition to providing logistic support, NSCN (IM) has been instrumental in propping up new insurgent organizations among different ethnic groups in the region. For example, the formation of the Garo insurgent organisation ALMA (Achik Liberation Matgrik Army) was a handiwork of the NSCN (IM). The same is the case with HNLC (Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council) and ANVC (A-Chik National Volunteers Council) in Meghalaya, NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura) in Tripura and HPCD (Hmar People's Convention [Democrat] ) in Mizoram. NSCN (IM) coordinates the activities of these organisations. Its aim is, thus, to turn its war against the Indian state into a war of the nationalities of the region. Keeping this aim in mind NSCN (IM) formed the ULFSS (United Liberation Front of Seven Sisters) in 1993 and SDUFSEHR (Self-Defence United front of the South-East Himalayan Region) in November 1994. 

The group has divided the entire region into several areas of operation with each of these militant outfits in charge of one. The NSCN (IM) plays the role of the coordinator and has tried to convert the whole northeastern region into an anti- India battle zone. Additionally the smaller ethnic insurgent groups have served to open up different sectors of confrontation as well as centres for resource mobilisation in areas beyond the NSCN (IM)'s sphere of influence.

Dialogue with the Government

A serious process of dialogue with the government started in the midnineties. On 15 June 1995, Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao met both Isak and Muivah in Paris. It was decided to continue the process of dialogue to solve the problem. Deve Gowda met NSCN (IM) leadership on 3 February 1997 in Zurich. Following these meetings, a ceasefire came into force. While the army and other security forces complained that the group was using the ceasefire period to augment its stockpile of arms and is violating the truce conditions, the government stuck to its stand of holding negotiations. Several rounds of negotiations took place with Swaraj Kaushal as the chief interlocutor. 

After the BJP government came to power installation in New Delhi, Prime Minister Vajpayee met the NSCN (IM) leadership in Paris in September 1998. Afterwards, the former Home Secretary, K. Padmanabhaiah acted as the centre's primary negotiator and met both Isak and Muivah in Bangkok for the first round of talks. The rebel leaders expressed unhappiness over the tardy progress in the negotiations. They stuck to the demand for a sovereign Nagaland, comprising many Naga-inhabited areas of neighbouring Assam and Manipur, besides the Nagaland State. Nothing concrete has emerged out of these meetings. 

The peace process suffered a major setback with the arrest of Muivah in Bangkok on 19 January 2000. Padmanabhaiah was scheduled to meet Muivah in Bonn on 31 January and 1 February 2001 for another round of talks. With Muivah behind bars for one year, the dialogue process has come to a halt. While the NSCN (IM) demands that the government should pressurize the Thai authorities for Muivah's early release, the government has refused to interfere in the legal processes of another country.

In the ongoing trial in the passport forgery case, the NSCN (IM) has appealed to both the Thai and Indian governments to recognise Muivah as an essential participant in the peace process and effect his immediate release. In the meantime the talks between the central government and the representatives of the NSCN(I-M) has resulted in the extension of the ceasefire till 31 July 2001. The ceasefire had been monitored by a Ceasefire Monitoring Group based at Kohima. Headed by the Additional Secretary, Home Ministry, Dr P D Shenoy, this group comprises of representatives of the NSCN (IM), NGOs and the government. It meets at regular intervals and so far it has held twenty meetings. 

Command Structure

The command structure of the NSCN (IM) is not known. But according to available sources, the top leadership comprises of Chairman Isak Chusi Swu and General Secretary Muivah. Below them are several kilonsers (ministers). Below them are senior members in charge of different regions. The organisation also maintains an army wing.

External Linkages

NSCN (IM) has alliances with the Naga groups operating in Myanmar. It also has links with the Bodo Security Force. In addition, it promotes many insurgent organisations in almost all the northeastern states. It has links with Hynnilwtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) and A'chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) of Meghalaya, National Democratic Front of Bodoland in Assam, National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), A-Chik Liberation Matgrik Army (ALMA) in the Garo hills, and Hmar People's Convention (HPC) of Mizoram. It provides logistic support to insurgent groups such as the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam), the NDFB (National Democratic Front for Bodoland), NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura), and PLA (People's Liberation Army). 

Internationally, it has opened up contacts with organisations like the UN Human Rights Organisation in Geneva, Unrepresented Nations People's Organisation (UNPO) at the Hague and the UN Working Group on Indigenous People (UNWGIP). 

Local Support

NSCN (IM) mostly consists of Tangkhul Nagas who are in a majority in the hills of Manipur. Its influence inside Manipur is restricted to the four districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong.


Drug trafficking is a major source of income for the NSCN (IM). Apart from that, it indulges in extortion, bank robberies and other criminal pursuits to obtain finances. The smaller ethnic insurgent groups floated by NSCN (IM) carry out their operations in coordination with the parent organisation. Seventy percent of the total income goes to the NSCN (IM) and the remaining thirty percent is left with the local groups. 

Towards the end of World War II, the retreating Japanese army left behind dumps of arms and ammunition in Nagaland, which at a later period was used by the insurgents against the security forces. Weapons are widely available in the region in the black markets.


The top leaders of the NSCN (IM) are Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah. Apart from that, I Shimre is another top leader who was arrested along with Muivah. Ng Hungshi is the press and publicity secretary of the organisation. The army wing of the NSCN (IM) is headed by Ramting Thangkul and Peter Jajo.


NSCN (IM) does not have any regular publication, apart from the occasional papers it brings out. However, organizations such as Other Media in New Delhi publish materials sympathetic to their cause.

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Page last modified: 19-02-2018 18:25:25 ZULU