Ceasefires are often seen as a simple measure to end violence and allow more substantive negotiations to begin. Contemporary conflict resolution models thus posit the ceasefire as a basic step in the peacebuilding trajectory. Offering an in-depth analysis of Naga militancy in Northeast India, this article argues that ceasefires should rather be understood as a part of the dynamics of conflict. Northeast India is a site of protracted conflict involving multiple contestants, where Naga militant organizations play a key role. A string of ceasefires since 1997 between the Indian government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) has contained fighting between security forces and militants, while violence has continued unabated between NSCN factions and among an array of other armed groups in the area claimed as ‘Nagalim’, with serious consequences for local communities. This study suggests that ceasefires may impact on conflict dynamics in at least three ways, all interrelated: (1) by affecting the internal cohesion of belligerent groups, (2) by affecting the operational space of armed groups, and (3) by affecting the relations between multiple stakeholders and parties to a conflict, including but not limited to the challenger(s) and the state. The study concludes that the terms of ceasefire agreements, the strategic use of ceasefires by conflict actors, and the opportunities created by a lack of effective monitoring of ceasefire ground rules has facilitated the operations of militants vying for territory, revenues from illegal ‘taxation’ and political stakes. Ceasefires have also paved the way for an escalation of factional and intergroup fighting and violent politics in Northeast India, by empowering signatory groups versus contenders as well as nonviolent actors.
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