‘Northeast women playing key role in peace process’

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NEW DELHI - Having suffered pain and injustice for decades, women of the northeastern region of the country are coming together to act as interlocutors between various groups and thus play a key role in the peace process, experts said at a conference here Wednesday.

Titled ‘Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace’, the conclave saw human rights activists, lawyers and academicians talk about the present day situation in the eight states of the region and how women are playing a role in giving peace a chance.

Binalakshmi Nepram, founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and the convenor of the conclave, said: “We the women from northeast India, home to some of the worst conflict zones of this country, have felt the damage, the pain, and the tragedy which comes to our lives because of a continuing lack of peace and justice.”

“As women who have survived violence, it is time to start staking our rightful claim at the negotiating table - that we have the right to decide our own future, to work towards ending conflicts, and to devise strategies so that no future conflicts happen,” she added.

Elizabeth Imti, lecturer at the Fazl Ali Cllege in Nagaland, said: “In the northeast, there is a lot of healing that is to be done. But it is a wrong perception that the region is all about insurgency - change is happening”.

“After suffering six decades of violence and of women becoming widows overnight, organisations like the Naga Mothers Association is doing a lot to bring about societal changes,” she said.

According to Imti, the association formed in 1984, is acting as the interlocutor to resolve conflicts between different factions in peace talks.

“In 1997, the association decided to take upon itself to honour those who died in conflict. They got in touch with the churches, collected Naga shawls and coffins, and after wrapping the bodies in the shawls, gave them a proper burial,” Imti said.

“Their role as interlocutors is also being recognised. Even the Naga rebel leaders have started recognising their role in the peace talks,” she added.

Sumshot Khullar, a social activist based in Manipur, added: “Women groups like the Naga Women Union are playing a very important role in trying to resolve conflicts between groups like the Kuki-Naga, Dimasa-Karbi and the latest Garo-Rabha.”

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