Naga civilians should move freely in their homeland: GNF

Appeals GoI to uphold Free Movement Regime with Myanmar

DIMAPUR, JANUARY 11 (MExN): The Global Naga Forum (GNF) has appealed to the Government of India to uphold the Free Movement Regime (FMR) agreement with Myanmar. A press release from the media cell of the GNF said that abrogating the agreement would put the Indian Government in “violation of international law and of the basic human right of Naga civilians to move freely in their homeland.”

“We are talking here about a people who have been living in their ancestral homeland (in contemporary India and Myanmar) since prior to recorded time. We stand by the Naga people’s right to civil and human rights in their ancestral land and in the world’s largest democracy. Given the living history of the Nagas in both countries, it does not surprise that crossing the Indo-Myanmar border has been a time-honored practice among the Nagas,” the GNF stated.

It reminded that when Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and U Nu drew an “imaginary boundary” between their newly independent countries in 1953, “without the consent of the Nagas, their decision resulted in an artificial separation of the Nagas and their lands across the international border.”

“What were Nagas to do when the two national governments decided to divide them up, as though they did not exist, by drawing a line that ran right through the house of a Naga family, as India and Myanmar did in Longwa village?” the GNF questioned. 

It said that the Nagas stood up for their right to be a free people and demanded political self-determination and autonomy. “As everybody knows, the Indo-Naga relation went downhill from there, with military invasion, armed resistance, failed ceasefires, bloodshed galore, imposition of extra-judicial military law (AFSPA) in the Naga homeland, peace negotiations, broken promises, and indefinitely stalled agreements,” the GNF stated. 

It said that after all these and more, now, the Indian government to even contemplate reneging on the Free Movement Regime agreement with Myanmar would “not only criminalize Nagas visiting with one another as they are accustomed to doing, but render establishing social and cultural ties extremely difficult, as well as make next to impossible the nurturing of communities for mutual assistance in times of need across the border.” This move, the GNF stated,“would be most unworthy of India’s high standing in world history, ancient and modern. And the Naga people would be justified in losing faith in the Indian government altogether.”

As it is, the GNF observed that the crisis in Manipur has demoralized the people of the state and the region to a point from which recovery is nowhere in sight. “The Manipur Chief Minister may want the FMR scrapped for his own reason, but doing so would come at the expense of the Naga people again, whether it is the further disruption of the Indo-Naga political negotiations or the lives of civilian Nagas on both sides of the Indo-Myanmar border,” it noted. 

On a broader note, the GNF reminded that the Nagas and the Northeast are an essential part of India’s Act East policy, and abandoning the Free Movement Regime agreement would go counter to the national policy. It therefore appealed to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to continue to uphold the Free Movement Regime agreement with Myanmar, which it stated helps lower the injustice and human rights abuses of the Nagas at the border.