JOINT PRESS STATEMENT
Guwahati, 9th December 2018
On the occasion of the 70th International Human Rights Day, 2018, the following organisations reaffirm their commitment to the universal values and principles of human rights.
Indigenous peoples’ organisations and movements gathered from 7-9 December at Guwahati to share “Experiences of Autonomy in North-East India” and for “A Critical Reflection and Dialogue on IP Struggles and Movements in NE India”.
The meeting called for critical change in the institutional designs for self-government of indigenous communities where they themselves identify the needs and determine the structure of governance.
The meeting expressed severe concern over the deteriorating human rights situations of indigenous peoples in the region. Increased militarization related to development aggression has resulted in further exclusion and marginalisation of indigenous communities. Economic agendas like tourism projects, extractive industries and their concomitant challenges has also given rise to new forms of conflict around resources and an alarming increase in violence within and between communities.
The meeting also expressed their concern against the decreasing democratic spaces and the increasing violence directed against human rights defenders by state and non-state agencies such as the recent attack against Ms. Agnes Kharsing and her colleague in Meghalaya.
All these are crucially underpinned by the central issue of the lack of the right to substantive and meaningful participation of indigenous communities in decision-making. It points to the severe defect in the top-down model of institutional designs written into the Indian Constitution and its legal regimes such as the Sixth Schedule, Articles 371A, 371C, 371G, or the various Territorial and Autonomous Districts Councils. All these models privilege paternal control of the state through decentralization and devolution disguised as autonomy when in fact the meaningful right of self-government is absent. The meeting noted that these models are susceptible to misuse of power, corruption and is inherently designed to fail.
The meeting took note of the various negotiations and dialogues between the States and the Centre with different indigenous communities and civil societies in regard to their demands for recognition of their right to self-determination based on their distinct identities, historical relationship over their lands, territories, resources, languages and cultures. The delay of these processes is a matter of serious concern and the Government of India must sincerely expedite the process for meaningful solution.
The meeting also shared solidarity with other struggling communities across the globe and reaffirmed their position on the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples and strongly urge the Government of India to uphold its commitment as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in letter and spirit.
- Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
- Borok Peoples Human Rights Organisation (BPHRO)
- Indigenous Women’s Forum of Northeast India (IWFNEI)
- Karbi Human Rights Watch (KHRW)
- Meghalaya Peoples Human Rights Council (MPHRC)
- Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR)
- Zomi Human Rights Foundation (ZHRF)
- Zo Indigenous Forum (ZIF)