Commemorating Human Rights Day - Eastern Mirror
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Commemorating Human Rights Day

By EMN Updated: Dec 10, 2020 10:22 pm

Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights

Greetings! How honoured I am to be speaking on Human Rights Day. Allow me the liberty to make some comments around the theme of “Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights.”

This year, without a doubt, Covid-19 has shaken many social, political, and economic assumptions and conventions of our modern age. Significant power shifts are happening. The ground we stand on is being upturned. Institutions are being stripped bare to reveal their actual appearance.

During such times, truth—about others and about ourselves—appears to be increasingly relative. False stories are widely distributed and quickly digested. Information is power, and the status quo and its many proxies have tightened their grip on the narratives and words that circulate in our society. Indeed, this trend extends to our conversation of human rights itself. The tendency of those in power is to patronise the vocabulary of “rights” and leave aside the wide range of ethics, laws, and policies to which rights are implied.

To an extent, human rights have always been vulnerable to misinterpretation and misrepresentation. Indeed, I have expressed in the past that the language of rights can be coopted by various groups for various purposes. Often, in this case, there is no way to arbitrate rights to common belonging. Rather, rights defined in such terms only end up serving the interests of “birds of the same feather.”

Nevertheless, Human Rights Day gives us a great opportunity to reclaim the idea from its abstract and cynical categories. In this light, the vocabulary of rights must be placed in its practical and universal perspective. The French philosopher and political activist Simone Weil said: “The notion of obligations comes before that of rights” A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds.

This to me, in context, is the true meaning of human rights. The effectiveness of rights lies in the context of human relationships and the obligations we have to each other. To quote Weil again: “There exists an obligation towards every human being for the sole reason that he or she is a human being, without any other condition requiring to be filled.”

Reasonably, without going further into other histories, the Indo-Naga political talks need to be identified and named in its de facto platform. The obligation, in this case, is to pursue a political solution for what is inevitably a political issue. This is the honourable and right thing to do. Admittedly, the Naga political history is a protracted one. In our long history, various parties, including the Government of India (GoI), have been obstructed by—and have overcome—many hurdles. During this process, human temperament and emotions have surged, often to the detriment of all. We must remain vigilant, however, to never permit these less desirable qualities to engulf the hard-earned relationship that the GoI and Nagas have built. By keeping in mind our common obligations to each other, we also remember our common humanity amidst our differences.

In this light, the Naga public needs to patiently understand the key bodies in the peace process. We must also recognise that this process is mentally and emotionally draining for all sides. The irony of our situation, for better or worse, is that discipline is most needed when we are most drained. It takes discipline to keep from blaming those who differ from us. It takes discipline to practice reciprocity. It takes discipline to be obliged to each other.

At the center of the Indo-Naga political peace process, Nagas must accept the hard fact that political idealism without a fitting form in its historical setting will only remain a subjective concept. That is, freedom takes hard work. It takes a constructive mindset. Freedom clearly implies a high degree of responsibility towards building structures—whether these are solid foundations upon which our houses will stand; wide bridges that will connect us to each other; or paved roads that will take us to our destinations. Minus this fundamental sense of responsibility, freedom will never exist.

GoI has officially signed the Framework Agreement with the NSCN/GPRN and the Agreed Positions with the seven Naga National Political Groups. Given this, it will be futile for the two Naga political groups to undo the other and to keep on mustering the Naga primordial instinct of rightness over the other. The political obligation from the side of the GoI is an achievement that should not be undone.

Nagas will do well to listen to the age-old principle that one cannot stand too long by standing on another’s misery. Attempting to position oneself only by targeting the other is no position at all. Anger and hate is not a political position. A symptom of such a making is the prevalence of one-dimensional mindsets that leads to communicating an incredible contempt for the other. Unlike genuine constructive criticism, contempt is dangerously toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the individual or the group. The rhetoric coming out of the jurisdictional and national disputes is a threat to our common interest.

The seventy years of Naga political narrative is like basket that is filled with the tragic fruit of animosity and disagreements. This is a result of many factors, including the harm inflicted on us, and the harm we have inflicted upon others. Should we continue with our usual way of doing things, or should we reconsider our actions so that our children may benefit from trees that bear sweet fruit?

Many conscientious Nagas who are sensitive to our common aspirations have expressed the urgent need to be creatively imaginative. In recent days and months, scholars like Dr. Paul Pimomo, Dr. Dolly Kikon, Dr. Venusa Tinyi, and Dr. Akum Longchari have brought our attention to ideas and possibilities beyond our usual habits and perceptions.

These ideas and viewpoints are crucial at the moment. It is my strong belief that our enlightened Naga minds can be catalysts that will stir our collective consciousness, which will ultimately result in action that is deliberate and impactful. One big task towards this goal is to un-learn certain ingrained myths about our identity, boundaries, and rights that have taken a hold of us on cultural, political, and individual levels.

Therefore, the first thing for Nagas to do today is to think of where we stand. I have some questions we can all think about: How do we move away from our present mindsets and emotional rhetoric into a more cooperative and sustainable way of doing things? How do we build goal-oriented organisations and self-sustaining institutions that will ensure the safeguarding of our common interests and collective future?

This political imagination should outdo the idea that no fitting forms are available at our disposal. While the essence of Naga nationalism remains, the fitting forms must come from the Nagas. In this sense, if humanity is God’s creation, then our foundation rests on the upholding of human rights. Above all, we have an obligation to each other, whether neighbour or stranger. It is on this foundation that we must build our house.

Rev. Wati Aier
Convenor of Forum for Naga Reconciliation

By EMN Updated: Dec 10, 2020 10:22:41 pm
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