1. WHO estimates 4.7 million COVID-linked deaths in IndiaThe figure is nearly 10 times the government’s official count for 2020 and 2021
There were likely 47 lakh deaths, directly or indirectly attributable to COVID-19, in India in 2020 and 2021, a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. These are the highest, by far, for any country and make up nearly a third of the 15 million such deaths estimated by the agency globally.
India officially estimated only 4.8 lakh cumulative deaths linked to COVID-19 as of December 2021, which implies that the WHO estimate is nearly 10 times the government count. As of May, India’s official COVID-19 death toll is 5.2 lakh.
Minutes after the WHO released its estimate, India reiterated its “objection to the methodology” used.
“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems….”
Excess deaths are calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years. Excess mortality includes deaths associated with COVID-19 directly or indirectly (due to the pandemic’s impact on health systems).
2. The status of the Naga peace talks
What are the demands of various Naga factions? Who are the NSCN-IM?
The recently released annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was involved in 44% of insurgency-related incidents in Nagaland in 2020.
The NSCN-IM continues to demand ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim — it wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
In 1997, the Government of India got the NSCN-IM to sign a ceasefire agreement to begin the holding of talks with the aim of signing a Naga Peace Accord. There have been over a hundred rounds of talks, after the ceasefire, between the Centre and the insurgent group but no solution.
The story so far: The annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released recently said that the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was involved in 44% of insurgency-related incidents in Nagaland in 2020.
The Union government had, in 2015, signed a framework agreement with the NSCN-IM to find a solution to the Naga political issue. The negotiations are yet to be concluded.
Why did the Naga insurgency begin?
The term Naga was created by the British for administrative convenience to refer to a group of tribes with similar origins but distinct cultures, dialects, and customs. The Naga tribes are accumulated in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Myanmar.
Residing in the Naga hills of Assam during the advent of the British and the annexation of Assam in 1820, the Nagas did not consider themselves a part of British India. The British adopted a way of governance over the Nagas that involved keeping in place their traditional ways of life, customs, and laws while putting British administrators at the top.
At the time of the withdrawal of the British, insecurity grew among the Naga tribes about the future of their cultural autonomy after India’s independence, which was accompanied by the fear of the entry of “plains people” or “outsiders” into their territory. These gave rise to the formation of the Naga Hills District Tribal Council in 1945, which was renamed the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946. Amid uncertainties over the post-independence future of the Nagas, a section of the NNC, led by Naga leader A.Z. Phizo declared the independence of the Nagas on August 14, 1947, a day before India’s declaration.
The underground insurgency began in the early 1950s when Mr. Phizo founded the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and its armed wing, the Naga Federal Army (NFA). The Central Government sent the armed forces into Naga areas to curb the insurgency and imposed the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is still in place in parts of Nagaland.
The Nagas, led by Mr. Phizo, demanding an independent state outside of India, boycotted the 1952 and 1957 general elections and armed clashes grew. Unlike other groups in the north east which were accepting some form of autonomy under the Constitution, Nagas rejected this in favour of sovereignty.
Some leaders among the NNC formed their own group to hold discussions with the government, leading to the formation of the State of Nagaland in 1963. This, however, did not satisfy many in the NNC and NFG, who, following years of negotiations with the government, eventually signed the Shillong Accord of 1975, agreeing to surrender arms and accept the Constitution.
When did the NSCN come into the picture?
This signing of the Shillong Accord was not agreeable with many top leaders of the NNC and those operating from Myanmar as the agreement did not address the issue of Naga sovereignty and coerced them to accept the Constitution.
Three NNC leaders — Thuingaleng Muivah of the Tangkhul Naga tribe of Manipur’s Ukhrul district, Isak Chishi Swu of the Sema tribe, and S. S. Khaplang from Myanmar’s Hemis tribe, formed the National Socialist Council Of Nagaland (NSCN) to continue the armed movement. The motto of the NSCN was to create a People’s Republic of Nagaland free of Indian rule.
In 1988, after years of infighting and violent clashes along tribal lines and over the main cause of the movement, the NSCN split into two factions. One, led by Mr. Muiwah and Swu called the NSCN-IM and the other, led by Mr. Khaplang called the NSCN-K. The NSCN-IM demanded and continues to demand ‘Greater Nagaland’ or Nagalim — it wants to extend Nagaland’s borders by including Naga-dominated areas in the neighbouring States of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. The NSCN-IM has now grown to became the most powerful insurgent group, also playing a role in the creation of smaller groups in other States. Its armed operations intensified along with illegal activities like tax extortion, smuggling of weapons and so on.
Where do the peace talks stand now?
In 1997, the Government of India got the NSCN-IM to sign a ceasefire agreement to begin the holding of talks with the aim of signing a Naga Peace Accord. After this ceasefire, there have been over a hundred rounds of talks spanning over 24 years between the Centre and the insurgent group, while a solution is still awaited. New Delhi has been holding peace parleys simultaneously with the NSCN-IM, and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) comprising at least seven other extremist groups, including the NSCN (K).
In 2015, it signed a Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM), the first step towards an actual Peace Accord. The then Joint Intelligence Chief R.N. Ravi was appointed the interlocutor for Naga peace talks and signed the agreement on behalf of the Centre. He was later appointed as Nagaland’s Governor in 2019 to further the negotiations.
The negotiations hit an impasse in 2020, with the NSCN-IM demanding the removal of Mr. Ravi as interlocutor, accusing him of “high handedness” and tweaking the agreement to mislead other Naga groups. The NSCN-IM continued to demand a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas and the creation of Nagalim, which it claimed was agreed upon in the Agreement. Mr. Ravi, however, denied this claim. After Mr. Ravi’s removal as the interlocutor last year, Intelligence Bureau officer A.K. Mishra was first appointed as the Centre’s adviser and then the interlocutor for the peace talks. On April 19 this year, Mr. Mishra visited the NSCN-IM’s camp in Dimapur to hold closed-door talks but issues over the Naga flag and constitution remain to be ironed out.