Confronting Constructionism: Ending India’s Naga War

Journal article

Baruah, Sanjib (2003) Confronting Constructionism: Ending India’s Naga War, Journal of Peace Research 40 (3): 321–338.

One of the world’s oldest continuing armed conflicts is also one of the least known: the conflict between the government of India and the Nagas. Since 1997, there has been a ceasefire between the Indian government and Naga militants, and there have been intermittent talks to end the conflict. Naga leaders appear to be willing to make concessions on their main demand of independence. But the peace process has stumbled on an unexpected hurdle: the Naga aspiration to the unification of all Naga-inhabited areas. Whether or not some people included in the Naga category should indeed be considered Nagas is in fact a highly contested matter. Since it is impossible to agree on who is a Naga and who is not, it has been difficult to decide what the Naga-inhabited areas are. The issue has generated some new conflicts in the region. As in all ethno-national conflicts, the politics of recognition is an underlying theme in the Naga conflict. But projects about recognition are also projects about constructing identities. The notion of bounded collectivities living in national homelands relies on a very different spatial discourse from the one of overlapping frontiers and hierarchical polities that precedes it. The article argues that the historical relations between hill peoples and the lowland states in this frontier region were premised on an especially complex spatial, cultural, and political dynamic. Saving the faltering Naga peace process will require confronting the constructionism of modern identities by the political actors themselves.

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