Third Northeast India Indigenous Women Peace congregation held online
The congregation saw the gathering of over 51 indigenous scholars, practitioners and women rights activists from eight states of Northeast India and also from around the world including indigenous women leaders from the Americas, Peru, Japan, Philippines and Bangladesh.
The ‘Third Northeast India Indigenous Women Peace Congregation’ organised by the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network (MWGSN), Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace (NEIWIP) and the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples, Gender Justice & Peace (GAIGAP), was held online via zoom on Saturday.
The peace congregation was organised with the theme, ‘Working Towards Our Collective Peace, Justice and Our Rights’ where Indigenous women of Northeast India and the world gathered to share experiences, lessons and to adopt resolutions for their future, stated a joint release issued on Thursday.
The congregation saw the gathering of over 51 indigenous scholars, practitioners and women rights activists from eight states of Northeast India and also from around the world including indigenous women leaders from the Americas, Peru, Japan, Philippines and Bangladesh. Story teller and pena player from Manipur Laishram Niketan performed a song at the inaugural session of the peace congregation.
Founder of MWGSN and the convener of the peace congregation Binalakshmi Nepram gave the opening remarks narrating the importance of how the Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace along with her started the First Women Peace Congregation in March 2015 in Imphal, Manipur, followed by the second congregation in August 2016 in Guwahati, Assam with the aim to ensure that women of Northeast India are made equal stakeholders in peace and conflict resolution processes to bring lasting peace in the region.
She said that Northeast India has been torn by seven decades of armed conflict where over 50,000 people have been killed, the release mentioned.
It further stated that the keynote speech of the peace congregation was given by professor Columbia University Elsa Stamatopoulou in which she said, “Indigenous women have bravely taken up the roles of mediators and peace builders…have sought to address these issues at the local, national and international levels.”
“The struggles of indigenous peoples are embraced by International Law and that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a major normative framework for preventing and solving conflicts that contains a number of significant articles which say that military activities shall not take place in territories of Indigenous Peoples unless justified by relevant public interest or requested by Indigenous peoples concerned, and that states shall make effective consultations through appropriate procedures, especially representative institutions of Indigenous Peoples, prior to using lands for military activities,” she added.
A prominent Naga intellectual from Nagaland Niketu Iralu spoke about how Northeast India has become “a region of many wounds.” He stated “We have hurt one another and the region has become a land of many ‘killing fields’, there is a feeling of ‘accumulated hurt’ that needs to heal,” it stated.
Iralu also joined the call by the organizers of the convening for the setting up of a Northeast India Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate into all forms of deaths, disappearances and acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide that has happened to the people of Northeast India for the past seven decades, it added.
Former chairperson of Arunachal Pradesh Women Commission Jarjum Ete detailed the rising violence against women in her home state, Arunachal Pradesh, as well as her efforts for women empowerment in the state. She also threw light on the attempts taken to take over indigenous peoples lands in her state as it is happening under the Draft Environment Assessment Impact Report 2020 and called for vigilance to protect indigenous peoples rights and land in the Northeast India border regions inhabited by indigenous peoples, it added.
Co-founder of North East Network Roshmi Goswami shared how the strengthening of neoliberal policies has been eroding and hurting indigenous culture and struggle, it stated.
The release mentioned that member of the Mohawk Nation in Akwasne belonging to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Elvera Sargent spoke about how there are 524 tribes that live along the international border of United States and Canada and that her people also have a long history of being colonised by both countries with huge impact on the lives of indigenous peoples.
An eminent Indigenous woman leader from Peru and founder of the organization Chirapaq from Peru Tarcila Rivera Zea, was the guest of honor at the peace congregation. In her speech, she narrated how in her home area in Peru, over 70,000 have been killed in armed conflict as it has happened in India’s Northeast.
Noted Meira Paibi Woman Leader from Manipur Ima Lourembam Nganbi spoke about the continued militarization, imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 and the impact it has on women and children in Manipur.
The release stated that a distinguished Kuki woman leader from Kuki Women’s Union Rose Mangshi Haokip, shared how the kuki women’s struggle started during the Kuki-Naga ethnic clash in 1993. She joined the others in calling for the inclusion of women in decision making, especially political decision making, it added.
Important sharing was done by indigenous women and men scholars and community peace workers from all across the Northeast and around the world that include among others the following Professor Lalneihzovi from Mizoram University, Homen Thangjam from Indira Gandhi National tribal University, Shibani Phukan, Dr Lianboi Vaiphei of Delhi University, Parboti Roy of University of British Columbia, Tinat Atifa Masood, Pantibolliu Gonmei, Agnes Kharsing, Amita Sangma, Anjali Rai, Rebina Subba, Sangeeta Goswami from Human Security Collective from The Hague, Dr Gyanabati Khuraijam from NIT, Tripura, Sam Simonds, Ringyuichon Vashum, Yuri Luikham, Nongdren, Chanthoi, Shanthalembi, Vipin Kumar, Shaheen Hussain, Shadab Anis, Shubhra Hanjabam, Pushpita Aheibam, Gilbert, Kanchan Sinha, Maisam Arnapal, Mumtaz Begum, Mitzi and Adine from Non-Violence International Southeast Asia and noted media personality from Manipur Pradip Phanjaobam also attended the congregation.
The online historic peace congregation concluded with a melodious Tangkhul folk song sung beautifully by a class X student from Ukhrul, Manipur Chonshimlan Huileng. The vote of thanks was given by Reena from Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network. The congregation also adopted several resolutions.