Reflection from AC4 Fellow, Kolby Hanson

July 18, 2015

Greetings from Guwahati, Assam, India!  I have just returned to Assam from two weeks in Nagaland, a region with a scattered, off-and-on insurgency since World War II.  I am here investigating why some armed factions are able to maintain peaceful cooperation with each other and with the government.

In the first question – why some groups are able to cooperate with one another – I am struck by the important role that civil society organizations play in revenue sharing.

Taxation by armed groups is the norm in Nagaland, enshrined in 2000-era government ceasefires and tolerated begrudgingly by the population.  But with eight separate Naga factions, keeping them all satisfied with “contributions” – and thus preventing turf-fighting – can be difficult.

That territorial fighting is rare is largely the result of a negotiation process led by Naga civil society groups.  In an area where more than one faction demands a contribution, representatives bargain on behalf of the local population to reduce and distribute contributions.  The shares reflect delicate diplomacy meant to keep various groups happy and maintain local peace.

In the second question – how factions maintain ceasefires with the government – I am struck by the amount of money the government pumps into Nagaland to preserve that peace.  Due to special agreements, Nagaland pays no federal tax and pays only token contributions to large federal projects like NREGA and PMGSY (5 or 10% while other border states pay up to 50%).  This not only creates many federal jobs (and a large number of public servants with a stake in the status quo) but also a steady stream of revenues for armed factions (who tax all government salaries and projects).  It helps to explain the surprisingly low levels of violence over the last 18 years, since the first factional ceasefire.

My best to the other AC4 fellows scattered around the world!  Hope everyone is having a great summer.

Photo of Kolby Hanson talking with Naga village leaders (and a couple of NGO reps who he was traveling with).

Photo of Kolby Hanson talking with Naga village leaders (and a couple of NGO reps who he was traveling with).

Author: Kolby Hanson is a Master’s student in Comparative Politics in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 

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