Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 06/2010

The State Strikes Back: India and the Naga Insurgency

Charles Chasie, Sanjoy Hazarika

February 2009

East-West Center


In the first decade after declaring independence in 1947, the Indian state faced numerous challenges to its very existence and legitimacy. These ranged from a war with Pakistan over the state of Jammu and Kashmir immediately after independence to the first armed uprising in the country in Telengana led by Communists in what is today the state of Andhra Pradesh. When an armed revolt against the very idea of India erupted in the distant Naga Hills of Assam state in the 1950s, the Indian government was quick to act by using the full force of the army and, in some cases, the air force, as well as its paramilitary and local police. It enacted special parliamentary legislation such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to give security forces even more powers and protect them from criminal prosecution for any "normal" violation of the law since these were regarded as extraordinary responses. This monograph addresses the tackling of nationalist aspirations through the use of the AFSPA, with a focus on Nagaland; it analyzes the approach and its impact of Naga society, as well as the fallout for the Indian state.