Northeast India comprises the contiguous Seven Sister States—Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur,Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and a brother Sikkim. The region has been facing the onslaught of multiple armed conflicts for many decades. The issues aggravated after the introduction of the Armed Forces Special Power Act. More than 50,000 lives have been lost in the violence. The total population of North Eastern Region of India is 38,857,769, of which 19.1% are living below the poverty line. North East India deals with complex social political issues such as struggle over natural resources, ethnic conflicts, illegal migration, displacement and social exclusion. In Assam, there have been 14 bomb blasts since January to March, this year and 30 cases of bomb blasts between January and March 23 in Manipur. The conflict in Manipur turns 300 women into widows annually.
On 25-26 March 2014, Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and North East India Women Initiative for Peace in partnership with Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI) successfully organized an event ‘Peace Volunteers Training on Women, Peace & Security, Human Rights, Leadership, Conflict Resolution and Peace Building in Northeast India', in Manipur.
The training workshop commenced with an introductory speech by Ms Binalakshmi Nepram Founder, Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network, welcoming all the resource persons and ‘Peace Volunteers' at the event. She opened the session by giving an overview of the disturbing situation and status of women in Northeast India, against the background of the region's prolonged inter and intra-state conflicts and patriarchal nature. She described how women are the victims of rape, abduction, child marriages, female infanticide, acid attacks, dowry-related murders, honor killing and enslavement. The focus of her speech was on ‘Women, Peace and Security in Northeast India' and the inclusion of women in peace negotiation processes. She mentioned that Nepal is the first and only South Asian country to adopt the National Action Plan on Resolution 1325 and 1820, as a result of which the application of Security Council Resolution 1325 – which addresses the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women. She furthermore criticized that many Northeast India's conflicts which are left unreported by mass media.
Ms Hazarimayum Jubita, Executive Director of Gender and Development Initiative and Convener of Peace Core Team, Manipur expressed that ‘Peace is a Process'. She quoted, “In Northeast India Peace Builders fight each other and form another Peace Builder.” She also mentioned that conflict can be solved from the top, down and bottom process and expressed the need of women in decision making processes and give peaceful solutions to the conflicts. She also expressed the need of women in decision making processes and give peaceful solutions to the conflicts. She said that Conflict happens at different levels, so, we need women to engage in decision making processes at different levels.
Mr. Wahengbam Joykumar, Executive Director, Human Rights Initiative, Manipur, explained the benefits of volunteerism. He mentioned about the qualities of a good leader as well as non-violent methods to combat violence. He also explained the concept of Human Rights which means freedom, equality, dignity, non-discrimination and is indivisible and universal. Further, he traced the concept of Human Rights to Indian Context, that in India, every citizen is entitled to all the Six Fundamental Rights granted by the Constitution and as citizens of India, have the right to seek constitutional remedy in times of human rights violation.
Mr. Phurpa Tsering, MA, International Relations, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, expressed his opinion about who could be Peace Volunteer, training methods, roles and responsibilities of the peace volunteer. He said that there should be linkage of local level network to the national level peace building process to ensure amplification of voices from grass roots to the national platform, to link community groups and leaders, to link networks of women to district, state and national level networks, to link with peace building networks, mothers' bazaars, district & state conventions and meetings, awareness events, exposure and exchange visits, youth meetings, and media engagement. He also added that women representatives should be facilitated to participate in different national and regional forums works on women, peace and security agenda as well as supported to attend discussion forums and contribute to the dialogue processes.
Mr Meihoubam Rakesh, Director, Human Rights Law Network, Manipur, explained how to file First Information Report (FIR) to the police and any application to the court. He mainly focused how to apply theoretical knowledge to practical and field knowledge. He encouraged women and youths to learn the basic rights given by the constitution and spread awareness in their society by doing more practical works. According to him, attending workshop and reading books about the rules and regulation is not worth until and unless you apply that practically.
Mr RK Bobichand, Director, Change and Peacebuilding Action (CPA), expressed that “there is no formula for peace building”. He explained each and every point about the types of conflict, types of violence, different approaches to conflict like prevention, settlement, management, resolution as well as conflict transformation. Later on, he added ‘Peace is a process, many-sided, never-ending struggle to transform violence' and explained about the types of negative and positive peace.
D. Michael Lunminthang Haokip, Doctoral Student, Department of Political Science, Manipur University, Imphal, said that in order to bring peace and to build friendship, home visit and taking documentation is one of the most important parts in bringing peace among the different societies, caste and groups. He explained how to do documentation of any incident happened and encouraged volunteers to start work from grass root level.
There were around 40 volunteers at the event and all were highly motivated by the Peace Volunteer training workshop by gaining much knowledge about the issues of Women, Peace and security, Human rights, Leadership, conflict transformation and Peace building in Northeast India. They were being assigned various tasks such as, to make documentation of conflict affected people, identification of prominent people in their area and to look whether they work for the people, collect the data of any incident happen in a year and identify themselves the areas/issues they can contribute for the society as a peace volunteer.
The workshop lay stressed on gender issues. It was suggested that the role of women in decision making processes is a critical factor in solving problems. Youth and women were encouraged to take leadership role and participate in all social activities.