It is easy to declare some place as ‘disturbed’, or to pretend that drugs and disease happen only to others. Real heroes stand up and make a difference. These heroes from Nagaland did that – and should be famous across India.
Since Nagaland became an official state of the Indian Union on 1 December 1963, its residents have undergone their fair share of social, economic and political turbulence. Despite the circumstances, some have gone on to tackle some of the state’s most pressing issues ranging from political violence, unemployment to drug abuse and the HIV epidemic.
Given below is a list of eight personalities in Nagaland who have made a significant difference to the lives of Nagas residing inside and outside the state.
1) Chingmak Kejong: Working hand-in-hand with tribal communities Chingmak Kejong and his wife, Phutoli Shikhu, have helped communities living in Tuensang, a remote district bordering Myanmar, to successfully battle the HIV and heroin epidemic in the 1990s. Through their non-profit organisation—the Eleutheros Christian Society (ECS)—they also helped establish a functioning primary healthcare system and brought warring tribal communities together on a single platform with their tremendous work in public health.
2) Niketu Iralu: A prominent intellectual and towering advocate of non-violence, Niketu Iralu worked closely with stakeholders to bring about peace and harmony among warring Naga clans. As part of the Khonoma Public Commission, he was instrumental in drastically reducing the spiral of revenge killings and violence that destroyed many families.
3) Jenpu Rongmei: A Class 11 dropout from Dimapur, Nagaland, Jenpu Rongmei rose out of abject poverty and the devastating loss of his younger brother, David, to drug abuse, to help over 1,000 fellow school and college dropouts rediscover their self-esteem. His non-profit, Can Youth, helps them find ways to pursue their education once again. For those who don’t want to study further, he helps arrange for private agencies in Dimapur to teach them life skills, vocational training and facilitates their access to formal financial institutions that can help them start a business.
4) Subonenba Longkumer: By the age of 12, Subonenba Longkumer, a resident of Dimapur in Nagaland, had lost his parents and been separated from his siblings.
A former child labourer, he turned around not just his life but also changed the lives of several others. Today, his Community Education Centre Society (CECS) runs a school in Dimapur, a residential school in Tuli and 15 informal education centres across the state for underprivileged children. It also runs a mobile medical unit for far-flung villages and is the nodal organisation for the implementation of the Centre’s Childline 1098 project.
5) Hekani Jakhalu: A lawyer by trade, Hekani Jakhalu established YouthNet in February 2006, alongside fellow professionals, to assist youngsters in a state suffering from rampant unemployment to find suitable work there.
From starting their own bakery to becoming a head chef of an Italian restaurant in Dimapur, thousands of youngsters wanting to fulfil their dreams have thrived thanks to YouthNet. “From a jobcentre where locals would be recruited in the hospitality and retail sectors, to RTI awareness campaigns to weed out corruption contributing to the unemployment scenario, YouthNet has worked towards multiple objectives,” notes this TBI report.
6) Sentipokla Jamir: She garnered the attention of the larger public after her small initiative called ‘Footprints’. Following her Master’s degree, Jamir began saving Rs 1000 every month from 1 January 2015 to buy blankets and electric rice cookers for underprivileged widows and widowers above the age of 70, reports Eastern Mirror. By also selling homemade pickles for Rs 50 to Rs 100, she also raised money to fund the education of underpriveleged students living in remote areas of the state. Across five districts, Jamir and her friends have reached out to more than 200 senior citizens.
7) Neidonuo Angami: One of the founding members of the Naga Mother’s Association (NMA), a major civil society organisation, she played a pivotal role in tackling the evils of drug addiction, alcoholism and violence borne out of insurgency for decades without fear for her own life. The NMA also doubled up as a platform for the women of various Naga tribes for social activism. Alongside other organisations, the NMA was successful in brokering a ceasefire between the government and the insurgents. In 2000, she even received a Padma Shri for her efforts.
8) Alana Golmei: Dr. Alana Golmei established the North East Support Centre & Helpline in 2007 to battle discrimination against people from the Northeast in different Indian cities. Receiving about 40 calls a month, this helpline has helped notify the authorities about hundreds of harassment, assault, and rape cases.
She is also running the Pann Nu Foundation, a similar helpline for women from the Northeast that she founded in 2013. The foundation aims to “safeguard and uphold the dignity of women, and strive against all forms of discrimination and crimes against women, irrespective of caste, class, race, religion and geographical region”.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)