New York: The following is the oral presentation and the written statement submitted by the Global Naga Forum (GNF) at the 21st session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) at the United Nations Headquarters, New York from April 25-May 5, 2022 represented by GNF general secretary, James Pochury.
Written Statement submitted by the Global Naga Forum
Agenda Item 3: Discussion on the theme “Indigenous Peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence, including free, prior and informed consent”.
“All peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development” (Article 1, ICESCR; Article 3, UNDRIP)
The Global Naga Forum respectfully and urgently submits to the UN Economic and Social Council and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that the pivotal right of selfdetermination on which all other rights depend has been denied the Naga people living in northeast India and northwest Myanmar, as a result of which the question of Nagas freely pursuing their economic, social and cultural development has been rendered moot. We provide below a gist of the ground realities in support of our submission, along with an appeal to help remove the chief obstacles to peace in the Naga homeland.
On December 4 and 5, 2021, thirteen innocent Naga civilians were killed by Indian armed forces in Oting and Mon, Nagaland. It was widely reported in Indian media and in many parts of the world. But attention on the continuing problem has since died down. On 21st March 2022, a local Naga leader in Arunachal Pradesh was shot and killed in front of his family by the Assam Rifles. On 1st April, four Naga young men were fired upon, two of them seriously injured and hospitalized, by an Indian Special Commando unit. The young men were returning to their village after a day of fishing. These kinds of wanton violence and human rights abuses on Nagas by the Indian army are not new. They have been happening since the early 1950s. But no armed personnel have been prosecuted for the recent killings or for any of the thousands of Naga civilians murdered by the Indian army. In such an environment, it is difficult to focus attention on sustainable economic development and transformative social and cultural change.
History matters. Acts of state sponsored violence have a cumulative effect on the communities involved. This is the tragic truth about the Indo-Naga problem that has been sorely ignored by the Indian public and the world. But people who study Indo-Naga relations can identify three major weapons in the Indian government’s unrelenting campaign against the Naga people’s movement for self-determination.
First, military force to crush the movement starting in 1953, so that by 1957, B. N. Mullik, Indian Intelligence Bureau Chief, reports in his My Years with Nehru, 1947-1964, that there were two divisions and thirty-five battalions fighting the Nagas, and “though there was nearly one security troop for every adult male Naga in the Naga Hills-Tuensang area, there never was a time when it could be claimed that the Naga guerrillas had been broken into submission.” So the following year, 1958, the government went to parliament and had the extra-judicial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) passed, which allowed the armed forces to continue waging war against the Nagas under the protection of the AFSPA. After more than six decades, the Indian armed forces have mostly completed the job. Yet, the AFSPA remains in place and the Naga homeland continues to be increasingly militarized. The Indian army has established headquarters, training centers, companies, and camps throughout the Naga homeland. There are 50 such establishments in Nagaland and Manipur alone, which have a combined area of just 15,022 square miles. The army occupies some of the prime real estate areas in the two states. There’s a reason for the heavy concentration of armed forces in the region. For the Government of India, militarization of the region has acquired a function beyond the Naga issue. The region has been turned into a sprawling military training camp for the Indian Army.
The second item in the Indian government’s anti-Naga self-determination campaign has been the Intelligence Bureau. Its role has been to create divisions among the Nagas every which way, with the government of India in tow with a free cash flow to corrupt and change Naga traditional values and indigenous governance. The Bureau helped create a new governance structure in 1962-63 with the establishment of the Indian state of Nagaland. This mission of dividing and corrupting the Nagas has been accomplished with remarkable success for India, but irreparable harm to the Naga society. Six decades of alien partisan party politics imposed on the Nagas — separated into four states in India and a province in Myanmar — have put huge obstacles in the way of sustainable development on all fronts — political, economic, social, and cultural.
What remains in the 21st century, then, is the third anti-Naga weapon being wielded by the government of India: bringing Naga society in alignment with Hindu-India. This project is being conducted passionately by the BJP government at the center. A Hindi-Hindu-centric national education in Nagaland and the whole of the Northeast is the goal, and the latest diktat from Delhi making Hindi compulsory in the region is an intentional step in that direction. The region is remarkably rich in languages and cultures, with 101 distinct indigenous peoples (scheduled tribes) and 114 languages. So the BJP’s arbitrary decision to impose the teaching of Hindi in schools in the eight states does not promote respectful coexistence among the diverse linguistic and cultural groups India is known for. It does nothing to advance the goals of democratic government. The decision has everything to do with the BJP’s vision of a monolithic Hindu-India and a RSS-driven “national culture” that the Mahasabha argued or at the time of India’s independence from Britain and went so far as to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi to the Mahasabha cause. We stand by Article 8 of UNDRIP, which says: “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation and destruction of their culture.”
Appeal: In light of this unbroken history of Government of India’s systematic abuse of the Naga people’s right to self-determination, we fervently appeal to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Special Rapporteurs on indigenous peoples rights and the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, the states and world leaders, to urgently prevail on the Indian government to:
• Immediately repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and set a timeline for demilitarizing the Naga homeland, so that a peaceful transformation of the region can begin.
• Expeditiously and in good faith resolve the Indo-Naga political issue, so the people can experience peace and live and thrive.
• Uphold the international standards enshrined in the UNDRIP and other relevant international human rights instruments and jurisprudence; that any development initiatives and implementation of policies and programs for indigenous peoples shall reflect the spirit, intent, values and principles of UNDRIP.
Oral Presentation of the Global Naga Forum
Agenda Item 4: Discussion on the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum The Global Naga Forum would like to state that the pivotal right of self-determination on which all other rights depend has been denied the Naga people after India and Myanmar became independent from colonial rule in 1947. The struggle for and absence of selfdetermination has made pursuing sustainable economic, social, and cultural development extremely difficult for the Nagas. So I am here on behalf of the Global Naga Forum to appeal to the Special Rapporteurs and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to urgently prevail on the Indian government to do three things:
● Immediately repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and set a timeline for demilitarizing the Naga homeland, so that a peaceful transformation of the region can begin.
● Expeditiously resolve the Indo-Naga political issue and engage the on-going peace negotiations in good faith.
● Uphold the international standards enshrined in the UNDRIP and other relevant human rights instruments and jurisprudence; that development initiatives and implementation of policies and programs in the Naga homeland are done in accord with the spirit, intent, values and principles of UNDRIP. I have time only to make this fervent appeal for redress at this time. The Global Naga Forum
has submitted a written statement for this session. It summarizes the realities on the ground in the Naga homeland from the 1950s to date that support our statement. The Naga people’s struggle for self-determination has been relentless suppressed by the government of India in three main ways: Military campaign from 1953 to today; Indian Intelligence Bureau propaganda to confuse, deceive, and divide Nagas; and liberal use of money and privilege to corrupt and change traditional Naga values and governance, and to align Naga society with the current BJP,s Hindutva ideology. I invite you to please read our Statement if you can.
For video click – Oral Presentation