Speaking on the occasion of the 72nd year since the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) by the United Nations (UN), Neingulo Krome, the Secretary General of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) delivered the keynote address by noting the significance it held for Nagas. He observed the fact that in the Naga context, it meant that 42 years had passed since the UNDHR was first commemorated in 1978 by the NPMHR, which had organized a Human Rights Week in Kohima. During the entire week, brave people came forward to offer their testimonials, exposing the numerous human rights violations that the Indian Military had committed on the people. In 1993, which the UN had declared as the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People, the NPMHR had also organized a year-long celebration with activities covering all Naga areas, and participated in the World Conference on Human Rights at Vienna, Austria. This culminated with a grand celebration of Naga Week at Kohima. Reports and writ petitions filed by Amnesty International and NPMHR in regard to the Oinam Incident of 1987, and its aftermath and also along with the Justice D.M. Sen Commission which was constituted by the Government of India (GoI), submitted reports of the numerous human rights violations committed by Indian paramilitary forces in Mokokchung in 1994, in Akhulato in 1995, and in Kohima later that same year of 1995.
All these led to a made the UN acknowledge that there was a human rights situation in Nagaland as mentioned in the UN news bulletin in 1995. He recounted that the UN had been on the verge of sending a fact-finding team to ascertain the facts of the reports filed, when the GoI stepped in to offer truce to the NSCN-IM. This led to the 2nd Indo-Naga Ceasefire which came into effect on 1st August 1997, with the Prime Minister of India announcing it in the Indian Parliament at Delhi, and the Chairman of the NSCN-IM announcing it from the Hague in the Netherlands.
He went on to recount the active participation of the NPMHR in issues pertaining to Indigenous People, beginning from the inception of the now dissolved United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, to the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and other Human Rights Councils. He stated that today the NPMHR was recognized as one of the veteran Human Rights organizations of the world, and the face of the Indigenous People’s Movement in Asia. Neingulo pointedly mentioned that though developed nations have been using human rights instruments to address issues of health, healthcare, education, infrastructure, environment, animal rights, and countless other aspects of rights; Nagas have so far been looking at human rights largely from the social and political aspects of human lives or for that matter, the Right to Life, which is just one component of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Borne out of necessity, he stated, this is nonetheless bound to continue with the political aspects occupying priority, till there is some kind of a decisive conclusion on the national political movement in the Indo-Naga conflict. The Nagas did not accept the offer of becoming a Crown colony of the British in 1935. Various agreements have been signed between Nagas and India, none bringing resolution. The Shillong Accord of the 1975 fractured the Naga national movement, he stated, and more recently, the GoI has signed the Framework Agreement with the NSCN-IM in 2015, and signed the Agreed Position in 2017, with the seven NNPGs. The GoI clearly wants this stalemate to continue, he stated and went on to point out that in the midst of the Nagas were also people who were holding the peace process at ransom.
The speaker of the event, Dr Wati addressed the participants next, by pointing out the tendency of those in power is to patronize the vocabulary of ‘rights’ while leaving aside the wide range of ethics, laws, and policies to which rights are implied and how the language of rights can be coopted by various groups for various purposes. He stated that Human Rights Day offered a great opportunity to reclaim the idea from its abstract and cynical categories. The way to reclaim and rescue the idea of Human Rights, he stated, was to recognize that the effectiveness of rights lies in the context of human relationships and the obligations we have to each other. The obligation, in the case being discussed, was to pursue a political solution for what is inevitably a political issue. This, he said, would be the honorable and right thing to do. We must remain vigilant, he said, to never permit our human weaknesses to engulf the hard-earned relationship that the GoI and Nagas have built. By keeping in mind our common obligations to each other, we also remember our common humanity amidst our differences, he stated. He asked all to recognize that this process was mentally and emotionally draining for all sides. The irony of our situation, he said, was that discipline was most needed when we were most drained.
Dr. Wati stated that Nagas must accept the hard fact that political idealism without a fitting form in its historical setting would only remain a subjective concept and that Freedom takes hard work, and a constructive mindset. Dr. Wati went on to point out a few observations: that the GoI had officially signed the Framework Agreement with the NSCN/GPRN and the Agreed Positions with the seven Naga National Political Groups. Given this, he said that it would be futile for the two Naga political groups to undo the other and to keep on mustering the Naga primordial instinct of rightness over the other. The political obligation from the side of the GoI is an achievement that should not be undone, he said, and that attempting to position oneself only by targeting the other is no position at all. Anger and hate is not a political position, he stated, and that we should express ourselves with genuine constructive criticism, and realize that empty contempt is dangerous. In this regard, he stated that the rhetoric coming out of the jurisdictional and national disputes is a threat to our common interest. He urged all to listen to the many conscientious Nagas who were sensitive to our common aspirations have expressed the urgent need to be creatively imaginative and that they have brought our attention to ideas and possibilities beyond our usual habits and perceptions. He stated that these ideas and viewpoints were crucial at the moment. He expressed his strong belief that such enlightened Naga minds could be catalysts for stirring our collective consciousness, ultimately resulting in action that is deliberate and impactful. One big task towards this goal, however, would be to un-learn certain ingrained myths about our identity, boundaries, and rights that have taken a hold of us on cultural, political, and individual levels. He posed a few questions to the participants: How were we to move away from our present mindsets and emotional rhetoric into a more cooperative and sustainable way of doing things? How do we build goal-oriented organizations and self- sustaining institutions that will ensure the safeguarding of our common interests and collective future? He concluded by stating that while the essence of Naga nationalism would remain, it was the fitting forms that must come from the Nagas. In this sense, he said, if humanity is God’s creation, then our foundation rests on the upholding of human rights, and that above all, we have an obligation to each other, whether neighbor or stranger. It is on this foundation that we must build our house.
The Morung Dialogue is a talk series organized by NPMHR, Delhi with the objective to strengthen the power of conversation, sharpen and share ideas and views on issues that affect our lives and contribute to democracy, Just peace and social justice.