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E-Pao! Opinion - Let Us Respect Indigenous Right

Let Us Respect Indigenous Right

By: Awungshi Angam *



One may agree or may not, 'Nagalim','Greater Nagaland','Naga Integration' whatever one wishes to call it, is likely to be the determining factor for the success or failure of the present talk between GOI and the Nagas. The issue is not simple as it involves many parties, tribes and ethnic groups cutting across different geopolitical regions of the North Eastern states.

However, the basic complication arises due to an ambiguous and obscured unwritten history of the entire North East. Repeated debates and discussions on the issue of land right would seem to be a meaningless exercise.

Thus trying to find a solution to the issue based on the historical facts by identifying land rights of the tribe or ethnic groups, is likely to be just a futile effort and waste of time and energy and if at all the contending party stick on it( land right) then a lot of conflicts are like to take place in the whole North East region which would plunge the entire region into another era of darkness, chaos and bloodshed that should be avoided by any means.

After all, who decides, for example that Tamenglong belong to Nagaland or it belongs to Manipur, who decided that Ukhrul belong to Manipur or Nagaland ? Each claimant might be right in his or her own eyes but not to other. Anybody has the right to claim the land right but who is the judge to give the final verdict?

Thus trying to find solution based on the so call historical fact of land right would be like trying to catch a cat fish with a hand in a deep slippery mud. Therefore, if the conflicting parties have the sincerity to find solution on the problem they must work out an alternative way. What would be the alternative that are available at hand?

First, Here the problem does not lie with the center (Delhi) but within the regions itself. Thus center can play the mediating role and bring all the contending parties and discuss sitting across the table on the principle of 'give and take'. This means restructuring the existing boundaries of the state which are affected by the issue. While doing so one must avoid the spirit of insisting on certain archaic idealogy and approach the issue with a realistic scientific attitude and flexibility of mind.

Second, conduct a referendum following international law respecting the basic right of those who have been dwelling in the land for the last thousands of centuries whether they are high or low, big or small. To me this would be the most civilized and acceptable alternatives. Article 1(2) of the charter of the United Nations is about the "principle of equal rights and self-determination of people".

The first Article of the human rights covenants of 1966 International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, state in identical words, " All people have the right of self-determination".

Thus, international legal law recognizes the right every groups, tribes and ethnic categories.

In his recent inauguration speech, President George W. Bush said, 'Liberty and freedom are the gifts of God and are the most precious for every human being and all human being must respect this gift. America will stand behind every nation and individual who fight for this right'. President Bush might be speaking keeping Middle East in mind but I believe this is applicable to every human being on the face of the earth including the poor villagers of North East.

The right of a North Eastern Tribal villagers are not less than the right of the son of British Royal family. In the sight of God and universal law all human beings are the same and each person's right should be respected and upheld by every civilized society.

In this respect, the right of freedom of the Nagas or for that matter those people who are living in the so called 'disputed' ( alleged land belongs to Nagas in Manipur, Assam, Arunachal) areas must be respected. They should be given a chance to freely decide their future because they are the real owner of the land. They only have the inalienable right over the land; no other person no matter how tall and how great he/she might be, have an iota of right to decide for them.

After all, who are we? Who could not share even a piece of bread and a cup of tea when they are in hunger and thirst, to claim that they are my people,? their land belong to me? Who are we, who do not know and even interested to know their miseries in the last many many decades, suddenly claim that they are my people and impose my will on them?

Hence, No Gogoi, No Ibobi, No Apang or for that matter, should impose their will on these people. Rather they should be given liberty to decide by themselves where do they want to be?

Therefore, this is my humbly suggestion that a referendum should carry out over the disputed areas under the supervision of United Nations and allow the people to decide their future by themselves. At the same time talk between the GOI and the NAGAS should proceed on other substantive issues which are more important.


Awungshi Angam writes regularly to e-pao.net
He can be reached at awungshi_angam@yahoo.co.in
This article was webcasted on May 06th , 2005.


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