‘Freedom, equality & justice’ synonymous with Nagas

Kanili Kiho
Dimapur | December 10

December 10, 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a significant global commitment.

This historic agreement articulates the inherent rights every individual possesses, irrespective of factors such as race, colour, religion, gender, language, political stance, national origin, social background, property, birth, or other status.

Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948, the UDHR established, for the first time, fundamental human rights intended for universal safeguarding. The day has been celebrated as Human Rights Day since then.

In an effort to grasp the significance of this year’s theme, “Freedom, Equality, and Justice for All,” within the Naga context, The Morung Express spoke with individuals from various backgrounds.
For the Naga people, who have struggled throughout their history for ‘freedom, equality, and justice for all,’ human rights defender, Neingulo Krome said the theme resonates with the Nagas’ core principles.

However, the Secretary General of Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) regretted that the themes remain “mere slogans,” and not practiced in letter and in spirit. 

Even so, he projected a hopeful presence that such ideas are “at least respected and struggling people's rights are acknowledged.”

Echoing similar sentiment, Professor DrCH Manwang Konyak said the struggle for ‘freedom, equality and justice’ may be considered as being synonymous with life itself for a Naga as he pointed out there has always been certain degree of oppression in different forms, arguably from ‘both internal and external forces.’

While being optimistic that there is possibility for the Nagas to dream of ‘freedom, equality and justice,’ he said finding a common ground from where initiation may be taken, is vital. 

As such, he noted the paramount importance of realising human rights and its implementation at all levels in the modern Naga society. “ This may be the only way where a peaceful and progressive Naga society can be developed.”

For Pekingto Y Jimo, a teacher by profession, it seems that in Nagaland, 'freedom, equality, and justice' are perceived as "privileges" reserved for the "affluent, elite, or those with higher social standing," rather than being universally accessible.

“In my view, it suggests a lack of true freedom, equality, and justice for all within the context of Nagas,” he stated.

The only way forward, Jimo maintained, may be for the “privileged lot” to shift their focus from “self- interest to considering the well-being of the Nagas and the society in general,”even as he expressed hesitancy on such dream seeing the light of day.

Limabenla Jamir, International Development Consultant, Local Public Sector Alliance, Washington DC said she has come to believe that the genuine character of the Naga society, including “our commitment to freedom, the level of equality, and upholding the rule of law,” cannot be determined by how “we treat the powerful, rich or privileged in the society.”

Instead, she held that it is truly assessed by one’s earnest commitment to empower the underprivileged and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. ‘Justice,’ she mentioned, stands as the key response to fostering development and reducing poverty across the state.

Meanwhile, Betoka Swu, member, NPMHR put across the significance of the day for the Nagas to address pressing issues on climate justice, land resource, biodiversity and on territories.

Stating that the Nagas have compromised with integrity and the principles upon which the forerunners stood, he regretted how the Nagas are now an easy prey for “exploitation” by people, in the name of “development.”

To this end, he underscored the need to advocate for such issues in the society, besides addressing human rights and self-determination, which he noted, are all aligned to one’s land and its resources and territory.