Kohima: The Global Naga Forum (GNF) has expressed concerns over “violations of basic human rights of the Naga people” by the Assam Rifles (AR) in its “own homeland” after the security forces allegedly prevented Naga villagers from accessing relief materials.

The GNF, through its Committee on Myanmar co-convener Professor Rosemary Dzüvichü and co-chair Dr Visier Sanyü, informed that the ‘Shilloi Relief & Peace mission” was conducted by the forum from November 6-8 to extend aid to Nagas in Myanmar “who were living in conditions of extreme deprivation, even of basic needs like food, medicines and warm clothes”.  

“Many lack proper housing; some are made to do forced labour by government agents, and they live under constant threat from security forces, including villages being attacked on suspicion of anti-government activity, forced lockdowns due to the pandemic. It was in view of these conditions that the GNF members from both sides of the border planned the relief mission,” an update from the GNF stated.

It informed that 21 volunteers travelling from both ends coordinated and met in Shilloi under Phek district of Nagaland to transfer goods such as blankets, clothes, shoes, rice, pulses, salt, face masks, sanitizers, over-the-counter medicines, user-friendly daily utilities, donated by Nagas from near and far.

While the group travelling to Shilloi and back were warmly received and assisted by the locals on their return, it informed that the downside of the relief mission was that the group was held up en-route for 45 minutes by Assam Rifles personnel late night at Washelo and needlessly questioned about personal details, even having their phones checked.

“They were asked to stand for photographs but they objected to it because they had done no wrong by travelling within Nagaland,” it said.

The GNF said that Nagaland deputy CM Y Patton had to intervene to calm the situation down.

“The Naga group from Myanmar was treated worse. Three Naga brothers came all the way from Layshi in Myanmar to collect relief materials from Shilloi, but were apprehended by ARs. They were kept overnight and taken back to the border without allowing any of the relief material. Peace in the region depends on mutual respect among the peoples and democratic governments,” it said.

The GNF appealed to all the stakeholders to uphold one another’s human rights. It said that GNF’s Relief and Peace Mission was to provide relief for the desperately-needy Nagas living in Myanmar, and a hope for peace in the region, one step at a time.

“Our mission was wholly sustained by Article 36 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIPs), to which both India and Myanmar are signatories,” it said, reminding that as per the declaration, Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purpose, with their own members as well as other people across borders.

It said that as per the declaration, states [India and Myanmar in the Naga case], in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, must take effective measures to facilitate the exercise and ensure implementation of this right.

“The question for every stakeholder then is: Why should Nagas, now under India and Myanmar, not continue to live as a people without borders? The Naga homeland is situated between India and Myanmar, two great civilizations of the world,” it said.

While stating that the Nagas have the potential to become bridge builders and peacemakers between the two countries, it regretted that the militarization and violations of Naga people’s human rights in both countries, for over seven decades, have “bedevilled peace and well-being in the region”.

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