India: Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights on Issues of Concern

    148

    In the spirit of dialogue and the desire to foster understanding, the Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) would like to share some of our present concerns, acknowledging that the Naga people are currently going through a crisis. The challenges have been created from within and without. Our collective inability to constructively address them has been exploited to its fullest by those who continue to actively deny Naga peoples’ history and rights. Yet, these challenges have provided an opportunity to engage in self-criticism and to recognize the need for genuine dialogue, mutual understanding and a pro-active approach in the struggle for freedom and progress.

    The work of NPMHR has been led by different generations of people guided by its founding principles and values of Human Rights since its formation on September 9, 1978. At times, in our desire to ensure and safeguard the people’s rights, there have been unintended omissions. Hence, at this juncture the NPMHR recognizes the need to acknowledge and assume full responsibility for our own mistakes, failures and shortcomings as a human rights organization. Simultaneously, we take the opportunity to renew ourselves and strengthen our commitment, to independently and impartially work within a human rights framework that is underlined by values of truth, justice and peace.

    Ceasefire

    The various ceasefires between the Government of India and Naga National Groups paradoxically have resulted in both positive and negative outcomes. It is the first time a generation of Nagas has grown up in a ceasefire situation and many people are experiencing some form of relative peace for the first time in their lives. Yet, the ceasefire has also been used as a means to further suppress, divide and weaken the Naga people. The ceasefire has provided an opportunity to many young entrepreneurs, but it is the State and its institutions that have benefited the most. After 17 years of ceasefire NPMHR believes that every Naga need to objectively review the ceasefire and discern whether it has served the purpose in creating genuine democratic space to address the Naga political issue through negotiations and nonviolence.

    Naga Reconciliation

    The pitfall of factional politics and “isms” has been the Achilles heel of Naga politics and the Naga people have been united in their call for Naga Reconciliation. The NPMHR believes that reconciliation is way forward to ensure Naga people a dignified and peaceful co-existence. NPMHR upholds and supports the Forum for Naga Reconciliation’s position that all Naga National Groups should reconcile on the basis of Naga historical and political rights. The NPMHR urge the Naga National Groups’ leaders to muster the political courage to transcend factionalism and jointly chart a Naga future.

    Repeal Disturbed Areas Act and Armed Forces Special Power Act

    The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was introduced in 1958 to militarily end the Naga national movement. Despite the realization that the Naga issue is political in nature that requires a political solution, the Indian government continues to implement the AFSPA through its armed forces in Naga areas. The Nagas have been experiencing the AFSPA during pre-ceasefire period and continues to, during ceasefire period. AFSPA is not only a deterrent to peace, but a primary cause for violating civil and democratic rights. The NPMHR is deeply concerned by the extensive militarisation of the Northeast region including the Naga areas through systemic means such as the Military Civic Action (MCA) that have undermined the rule of law and civil administration. In the interest of peace and democracy, the NPMHR urges the Government of India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Government of Nagaland to withdraw the Disturbed Areas Act.

    Naga National Groups and human rights

    NPMHR is dismayed by the increasing lack of discipline and respect of human rights by Naga National Groups. The protracted ceasefire has also created conditions that have made the public vulnerable to human rights violations by Naga groups; furthermore, the absence of a democratic system to hold perpetrators of human rights accountable has given rise to a culture of impunity. The NPMHR urges all Naga National Groups to address the indiscipline by cadres and to respect and uphold human rights of all individuals.

    Additionally, the NPMHR expresses our solidarity with the public in their concern over unchecked taxation by the Naga National Groups. As representative of the peoples’ aspirations, the Naga National Groups are urged to be sensitive to the existing economic conditions of the common people and to reciprocate by ensuring a unified system that is free, fair and safe while upholding the principles of accountability and transparency.

    Land and Development

    Like all indigenous people, land is central to our identity and survival as peoples. Hence, the increasing activities exploiting natural resources in the form of Special Economic Zones, oil exploration, mining of minerals that are being undertaken without any informed consent, public knowledge or democratic consultation are a matter of deep concern. These activities need to be viewed alongside the agenda of Look East Policy, opening up of trade zones and relations between South Asia and South East Asian countries, trans-national highways and railroads, and so forth that seek to promote economic development by ignoring the voices and basic needs of ordinary people.

    The top-down state-centric development will have long term negative impacts on our lives. Such activities will not only alter our relationship with land, but it also has the potential to displace people and culture, disrupt livelihoods, and most critically expand the gap between the rich and the poor which is on the rise in Naga society.

    NPMHR thus calls for development that is value based and consistent with indigenous peoples’ worldview and perspectives where utmost care is taken to ensure preservation of natural resources and where society benefits collectively are the basis for any activity.

    Gender Violence

    NPMHR is deeply distressed by the increasing incidents of violence against women and the entrenchment of social and cultural structures that promotes such violence. It calls upon Naga civil societies and organisations to work toward ensuring equality and respect for the rights of women. It further points out the need to re-examine exclusive and parochial definitions of “customary law” and to work towards a more inclusive understanding of customary law that respect and upholds the rights of men, women and children.

    Peoples to Peoples Dialogue

    In the 17 years of ceasefire, the Nagas are experiencing deepening divisions and sharp fragmentation of our society. The intensity and frequency, in which issues are being politicized, defined and projected along lines of tribalism and groupism is worrying. Hence, the NPMHR calls for better and frequent communication and dialogue processes among the Naga tribes and civil society organizations irrespective of geographical and state boundaries.

    NPMHR further reiterates the need to engage in a peoples to peoples dialogue with our neighbouring communities and peoples in order to engage in co-learning and sharing of experiences. We recognize that it needs more than political agreements for sustainable peace. It requires peoples to develop understanding to co-exist together in peace and respectful relationship.

    Finally, the NPMHR impresses upon the Naga churches, Naga National Groups, traditional organizations and women groups, civil society organizations and Naga men and women the need to come together and work for the common good of the people.

    • Naga Peoples Movement for Human rights
    • Dated Kohima the 24th of July 2014.