Temjen Imna Along

Kohima, Feb. 24 (PTI): Nagaland minister Temjen Imna Along on Sunday said that the state unit members of BJP will not dissociate from the national leadership even if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is brought into force by the saffron party-led NDA government after Lok Sabha elections.

Along, who is also the state unit president of BJP, was replying to a question by Opposition Naga People’s Front (NPF) MLA Moatoshi Longkumer in the assembly.

Longkumer, however, insisted that the BJP, a constituent of the ruling NDPP-led People’s Democratic Alliance government, also issue a statement on the matter.

He alleged that the Neiphu Rio-led government took a U-turn on the bill after protests broke out in the state and other parts of the northeast.

“Initially, the chief minister had stated they will not oppose the bill because Article 371 (A) protects Nagas. They changed their stance later, keeping in mind popular sentiments,” the NPF legislator said during a discussion on the bill.

The chief minister tabled a resolution in the assembly Saturday, opposing the passage of the Citizenship Bill in Parliament.

Rio said the central government was pursuing the bill for enactment, despite opposition by state governments, political parties, tribal organisations and civil societies in the Northeast.

The bill, passed in Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to provide citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India.

Longkumer said every constituent of the PDA government the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Dal (U) and the National People’s Party and an Independent MLA should make their stand clear on the bill, he said.

“The statements of the PDA members are very misleading. Opposition MLAs are not nursery students, we understand Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and Article 371(A). It is not a rocket science.”

Along said the state unit of BJP “strongly supports the resolution”.

The bill, which was introduced in Parliament by the NDA government, is a matter of concern for the indigenous people of Northeast states, including Nagaland, the higher and technical education minister said.

He called upon the MLAs to “unite together on the issue, instead of speaking against each other”.

Minister for Agriculture and Cooperation G Kaito Aye said the Northeast states should be exempted from the purview of the bill.

“We can’t talk about the entire nation, but should seek exemption or certain relaxation for the people of the Northeast,” the JD(U) MLA said.

Stressing that the Centre has not opposed Article 371 (A) in totality, Aye said the Naga political discussion is in progress and the state needs to be careful to ensure it’s not affected.

The article deals with special status accorded to the people of Nagaland.

It states that no act of Parliament with respect to religious or social practices of the Nagas, Naga customary law and procedure, administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the state unless the assembly by a resolution so decides.

National People Party MLA Imnatiba said his party will extended full support to the resolution tabled by Rio.

PWD Minister and Independent MLA Tongpang Ozukum said the ruling and the opposition parties should be on the same page on the Citizenship Bill.

Stating that Article 371(A) and Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulations (BEFR), 1873 are pillars to protect the Nagas from Citizenship Bill, he urged MLAs “to come together and fight for a common cause”.

The BEFR, introduced by the British, protects the interests of the Nagas.

~EMN

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