Comparing to the rest of the world, the program to commemorate International Human Rights Day on December 10 organized by the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) was a small affair confined to a conference hall in Dimapur with a select audience of former and present leaders and few well wishers. Even the local media found it not worthwhile to give importance to the deliberation held. For the NPMHR, this low key affair may itself have been a reflection of the uncertain state of affairs the organization is going through. Clearly, since its inception in the year 1978 at the height of the Naga people’s political struggle, NPMHR has come to that stage requiring serious soul searching in the backdrop of changing realities. How NPMHR will stay afloat in the post-ceasefire period and the direction that it will pursue therefore requires serious attention of the members—past and present.
It was indeed heart warming to come across the open admission by former leaders of the NPMHR on some of the failures and the need for correction thereof. The first Convenor Dr PS Lorin put it matter of fact that NPMHR has been only 20 % successful and to even achieve 50 % success from hereon will be good enough. His message was clear that NPMHR from being an intellectual forum must now go to the people by reaching out to them. This is a welcome suggestion coming from one of its founding member. But to do so, NPMHR may well have to reinvent itself. And the first thing that it has to do is to come out of the ivory tower mentality and become relevant to the people. For this it cannot remain oblivious to the mounting challenges on various fronts, all equally related to human rights.
To remain people centric and acceptable to the masses, NPMHR must begin the process of taking up agendas upfront. Releasing of the two publications ‘Harmony through Culture’ and ‘Taking the Peace and Human Rights Agenda Forward’ on the occasion of International Human Rights Day is no doubt a step in the relevant direction. Be it on issues of peace, democracy, education, women empowerment and development, it will all boil down to how NPMHR is able to reinforce on issues that has a common denominator for the masses at large. And all this is possible while keeping intact the principles on which NPMHR was founded. If they are able to do this, there is no reason why NPMHR cannot be reinvigorated to take on newer challenges that confronts the Naga society and polity— violence, corruption, nepotism, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, poverty, electoral reforms, human rights, environment etc.
The present leadership within the NPMHR will no doubt be aware that it is passing through a critical period in its life. While critics may point out that it has lost its raison d’ etre with the ceasefire, the NPMHR must send out a clear message that it can still provide a positive agenda for the people. While it is acknowledged that NPMHR was born out of the grave situation of gross human rights atrocities committed by the Indian armed forces, the issue has today gone much more beyond the realms of this ideological mooring and failure to recognize this truth will only discredit its legitimate claim as a genuine human rights body in the eyes of the people.