To end bloodshed, Naga mothers walk the long road to peace

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Naga Mothers in back-channel talks with Government of India, NSCN Khaplang to end violence and restore peace


Naga Republic News


Drawing strength from its long held vision to end bloodshed and restore peace in the land, the Naga Mothers Association (NMA) continues to reach out to stakeholders, Naga national groups and the establishment in Delhi among others, in its efforts to find meeting points and peaceful resolutions.


President of the Naga Mother Association Mrs Abeiu Meru (left) and Advisor Dr. Rosemary Dzuvichu (Right) seen with former NSCN (K) Chairman Khango Konyak and the Commander in Chief at the Chairman’s house in Taga inside Myanmar after a long meeting on peace during January 2018


Known for taking a creative as well as pragmatic approach in its peace initiatives, the NMA has mediated where others have found it intricate or incapable to intervene. The Naga Mothers over the years have used ‘goodwill’ and ‘trust’ it gained to help mediate in difficult conflict situations.


In its latest peace initiative, it is reported that the NMA is active on the ground in back channel talks to get the NSCN Khaplang group return to ceasefire and start dialogue with the Government of India. The NSCN (K) had abrogated its 14 year old ceasefire with the Indian government in March 2015.


The long walk to peace… Leaders of the Naga Mothers Association seen in this undated picture


What followed was a return to arms and violence. In one of the worst attacks suffered by the Indian Army in a decade, at least 18 soldiers were killed when their convoy was ambushed in Manipur’s Chandel district. The deadly attack, shortly after abrogation of the ceasefire, was carried out by a combined force of the newly formed SS Khaplang led United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW).


Indian security forces and government agencies responded with counter retaliation and heavy clampdown on the activities of the Khaplang group, including a probe into terror funding. Not surprisingly, the Ministry of Home Affairs in a notification issued on September 28, 2015, declared the NSCN (K) as an ‘unlawful association’. This was followed by another notification issued on November 6, 2015, this time labeling it as a ‘terrorist organization’.


Meanwhile it was disclosed through sources that following its withdrawal from the Ceasefire in March 2015, the Naga Mothers Association (NMA) officially met the NSCN Khaplang group thrice in different areas of Myanmar, each time with the message and appeal seeking a return to peace.


NMA members with top NSCN (K) leaders from Nagaland seen here paying respect at the grave site of SS Khaplang in Taga, inside Myanmar


The latest meeting was held earlier this year in January at the NSCN (K) Council Headquarter in Taga with top leaders including outgoing Chairman Khango Konyak and top army leaders. The NMA team consisted of its President Mrs Abeiu Meru and NMA Advisor Dr. Rosemary Dzuvichu.


When contacted by The Naga Republic on what transpired during the meeting with the NSCN (K) leaders, it was informed that an appeal was made to the NSCN (K) leaders for cessation of hostilities and expressing the concern of Naga Mothers for peace. According to the Naga Mothers, the NSCN (K) leaders made it very clear that “peace is difficult in the midst of bans and bounties on the organization”.


Following the peace mission to the NSCN (K) camp in the jungles of Myanmar, which took 11 days of travelling through rough terrain, riding on bikes and boats, as the only mode of transport available, the NMA team, is reported to have come back with their independent observation.


A long journey through the rough Chindwin river NMA leaders travel to reach the NSCN (K) camp inside the jungles of Myanmar


Dr. Rosemary Dzuvichu disclosed to The Naga Republic that they conveyed their concerns to both the State government and the Government of India for peace initiatives with the Khaplang group. “We continue and stand by all ongoing peace initiatives with other groups for the sake of a Just peace”, the NMA Advisor said.


Earlier, the Naga Mothers also personally met the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh with a memorandum. This was in the immediate aftermath of the August 29 (2015) Pangsha killings where at least seven NSCN (K) members, including a woman cadre, were killed while three civilians and an Assam Rifles jawan were injured in an encounter near the International Trade Centre (ITC), Pangsha in Tuensang district of Nagaland.


It was revealed that the Naga Mothers had reiterated before the Union Home Minister on the need to lift the ban on the NSCN (K) given that a peace process was on to find an inclusive solution to the Naga political issue.


NMA Advisor Dr. Rosemary Dzuvichu holding discussion with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on September 18, 2015 at New Delhi

“We were shocked that he (Union Home Minister) had banned the organisation that morning and we heard it on TV waiting for appointment at his Office. So we demanded lifting of the ban in our official meeting in the afternoon. He was appreciative that NMA was still insisting that the Government of India still seek peace with the group despite all odds”, informed Dr Rosemary Dzuvichu, a widely respected academic and Advisor to the NMA.


The Naga Mothers appreciated the graciousness of the Union Home Minister for the frank exchange of views during their closed door meeting on September 18, 2015 and his willingness to consider the request of the mothers.


The memorandum submitted that day to the Government of India was openly critical of the latter’s ‘dual policy’ as the NMA puts it, of indulging in ‘unwarranted’ killings in the midst of hectic missions of peace building efforts by the Nagas. As the NMA puts it, “Nor will bounties on the heads of the NSCN (K) leaders or a ban on the group, work as a solution for peace, because no matter what, they are also freedom fighters, and our sons and brothers, and not terrorists.”


The NMA as part of its peace mission also interacted on several occasions with the Government of India Interlocutor R.N.Ravi on various issues related to peace initiatives.


NMA President and Advisor seen here in the jungle hideout with top military commander General Niki Sumi


When contacted on the latest development regarding its effort to bring the Khaplang group to the talks table, Dr Rosemary Dzuvichu reiterated the Naga Mothers appeal to the Government of India “to lift the ban and bounty imposed on the NSCN (K)”. At the same time she also said that the Naga Mothers appeal to the NSCN (K) to cease all hostilities still stands.


On the new development within the NSCN (K) where a Burmese Naga has taken over from Khango Konyak who had hailed from the Indian side, Dr Rosemary replied that the new Chairman is a Naga, “well educated and seems to enjoy the support of majority leaders”.


“Peace is the yearning of all their mothers and families wherever they may be and we are confident it resonates with all of them. So many of our Nagas from the western side, old and  young, well  educated and committed to the cause for decades, are in important positions in their Organisation”, the NMA Advisor said when further queried on the prospect for peace under the new NSCN (K) leadership.


NMA members seen along with other leaders of Naga civil society organizations during a meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi


Giving a hopeful and at the same time farsighted assessment of the situation, Dr Rosemary Dzuvichu had this to say:  “I see the dynamics of Peace going beyond all boundaries in the coming days”.


The NMA Advisor also adds: “If the GOI is serious about peace in this region, it cannot afford to ignore the NSCN (K) and must rethink its policies. The NMA as peace builders and peacekeepers hope we can all work together for recognition of the just cause of the Naga people without further bloodshed”.


According to her, the NMA through different forums had also reiterated its position on the Naga issue pointing out that “it must be inclusive for sustainable peace”. In this regard it has been making appeals to all Naga Political Groups “to come in peace together and work for the future”, says Dr Rosemary.


Mention may be made that the NMA reached out to Chairman Khaplang in the early 1990s in the eastern jungles with then NMA President Mrs Neidonuo and Secretary Khesheli Chishi and initiated the need for peace and ceasefire. The NMA did the same with the NSCN (IM) and paved the way for peace, reminds Dr Rosemary.


NMA members along with tribe Presidents in Delhi seen here with the Collective leadership of the NSCN (IM) and lady wives


She informed that the NMA met top leaders of the NSCN (IM) several times. Memorandums on gender justice, inclusion of women in peace negotiations and dialogues for a sustainable peace were raised. Meetings with the NNPGs on varied occasions also echoed the same concerns. The NMA had also called on NNC President Adino Phizo in Kohima acknowledging her leadership.


“Peace keeping and peace building has been the mandate of the NMA since the early 1980’s and 90’s and we continue to do so over the years, in all kinds of conflict situations and in our search for peace as mothers and as Naga women”.


NMA members Abeiu Meru, Rosemary Dzuvichu, Khesheli Chishi, Sarah Nuh and Lochumbeni Humtsoe receiving the Lifetime Contribution Award from President Pranab Mukherjee. The award was part of the Times of India Social Impact Award given in 2013


Having brokered peace where others have feared to tread, the Naga Mothers have a most vital role to play in a divided Naga political situation, says an independent observer closely watching the unfolding events, including the rising fear and anxiety over the yet to be announced Naga Peace Accord.


For an organization that works for gender justice, the political empowerment of women and peaceful solutions to conflicts in the region, the present and future role of the Naga Mothers Association is going to be even more important in the days ahead.


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