Citizenship Bill

Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Jan. 31: The Citizenship Amendment Bill was unanimously opposed and rejected resulting in a resolution to this effect among the Nagaland government and tribe organisations, political parties, and non-governmental organisations (NGO).

The resolution passed during a consultative meeting on Thursday in Chumukedima. According to the resolutions arrived at, ‘the House unanimously resolved to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 and outrightly rejected its implementation in Nagaland.’

It expressed solidarity with the rest of the NE states, all of whom have expressed serious concerns about the Bill. “Nagaland is a political state formed out of the 16 Point Agreement and accordingly Article 371(A) of the Constitution protects and safeguards the rights and privileges of the citizens of Nagaland, as no act of Parliament, shall apply in the state of Nagaland unless the Nagaland Legislative Assembly by a resolution so decides.

“The House was of the view that all Naga organisations should have unanimity in supporting this stand in the greater interest of protecting and safeguarding the rights and privileges of our people as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.”

It reiterated that any person acquiring Indian citizenship through the amended Citizenship Bill would be as ineligible for acquiring property or settling down in Nagaland as any other non-Nagas including Indian citizens are at the present. “The Nagaland Assembly should discuss and resolve to enforce ILP regulations all over the state including Dimapur district.”

Giving the closing remark Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said the meeting was held because state government cannot make a decision on its own without consulting the ‘rule making and administrative local bodies.

Rio said that the footage recorded with all the apex bodies and organisation opposing the Bill will serve as a mandate of the Naga people to the government of India. “We got a mandate from the people to speak with authority, to the government of India.”

Rio was disappointed at the opposition party, Naga People’s Front (NPF), skipping the meeting. “Yesterday, we discussed that even though we belong to different political parties, we shall not politicise such issue. But the NPF party boycotted the meeting. It is unfortunate,” he shared. “Whereas, they stated ‘we will be a responsible opposition’ in the newspapers.”

According to him, “Boycotting such (meeting to discuss) an issue concerning Naga people is not right.”

“They also boycotted during the Statehood Day on Dec. 1. I personally, as the chief minister, invited the opposition members including the former chief ministers. Their seats were reserved on the dais. But they boycotted,” said Rio while adding that the NPF boycotted even the Hornbill Festival and the Republic Day.

“On a day like today, it was better if the opposition party could attend and speak face-to-face with the public. They did not come but I will term it as unfortunate.”

Regarding the day’s meeting, Rio said there will be no further discussions about the Bill since all the tribe hohos, NGOs, individuals, state government, and political parties have unanimously decided to oppose it.

“The outcome of the decision will be taken to the assembly. After further discussion, appropriate decision will be made. That will be the next chapter,” Rio assured.

The chief minister also sought to clarify doubts raised by some people concerning whether Article 371 (A) could protect Nagaland from the Citizenship Bill. “We are grateful for our national workers who have sacrificed in blood, sweat, and tears for such protection. Whereas, we ourselves are saying Article 371 (A) cannot protect us. To turn others into a Naga citizen; is it not against our belief? Is it not against our tradition? Is it not against our customary laws?” he stated, while adding, “even an Indian citizen needs ILP to enter Nagaland.”

“(The) Courts will not give us protection. Court will protect the nation’s interest, not Nagas’ interest. In the Parliament, there is one member, what can he do alone? We cannot get justice in the parliament or the court,” he explained.

Rio reminded that there is also an assembly committee to look into the applicability of Article 371 (A) which includes the leader of the opposition, among others, and elected member from both the ruling and the opposition parties.

“That is why a 100% commitment is needed from the NPF so that we can criticise and also come to end with an agreement. The Bill first came into being in 2016, and latter in 2019, but they did not oppose the Bill back then. Only recently, they gave a statement in which they ask what the stand of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) were. That is why, if we want to find fault in one another, we have to come across the table and discuss,” said Rio.

The chief minister expressed the need for unity during such moments. “You cannot get justice in this world when you are in minority, lacking in resources and in unity. Justice can come only in a civilised environment and only when you are united,” he asserted.

Rio said that his government would do its best at the earliest. He further requested the civil societies, NGOs, and other organisations to unite and fight for the interest of Nagas and to pressurise the union government.

During the discussion hour, the NDPP president, Chingwang Konyak, said that ‘such an approach reflects the government’s positive attitude towards engaging all stakeholders on issues and matters that concern the people.’

According to Konyak, the PDA government, in successive cabinet meetings, had opposed the Bill by making it clear it needs to be reviewed and would not be applicable to Nagaland. “On 29th January, 2019, the NDPP participated in a joint meeting of the regional political parties of the north eastern region at Guwahati on the issue of the CAB.

“In this meeting also, the NDPP has expressed its opposition to the bill and highlighted the stand and decisions of the Nagaland cabinet. We have further stood in solidarity with the rest of the region and supported the all party resolution to oppose the bill and take up the matter with the government of India at the highest level,” he said.

According to him, the ILP is only a permit to visit the Nagaland for a specific period and it does not allow the holder to settle down, own assets or even seek employment. Under such circumstances, it is not possible for any non-indigenous person to get rights and privileges in Nagaland, he said.

“Taking this opportunity, we want to make the stand of the NDPP very clear on Article 371 (A) of the Constitution. The rights, privileges and safeguards that are in place for Nagaland and the Naga people under the provisions of this article have been earned through great sacrifices made by the Naga people,” he maintained.

He suggested that the government introduce work permits for those seeking employment in any sector, which will enable the government machinery to better regulate the floating labour population. “We also need to strengthen the ILP regime with use of modern technology so that it is more effectively implemented and regulated. Use of technology will also check improper practices, curtail misuse of the laws and combat corruption,” he emphasised.

Konyak said that the “issuance of Schedule Tribe and Indigenous Inhabitant Certificates by the government through the respective district administrations has to also be stringently monitored and controlled. It may be suggested that the issuing authority should approve of issuing the said certificates only on the production of genuine NOC/certificate by the applicant from the concerned village authorities under whose jurisdiction they come under.

“Today, the issuance of such certificates has become a booming industry whereby the antecedents of the holder of these certificates become questionable. The government should implement a zero-tolerance rule to such malpractices and even haul the erring officer’s for disciplinary action if so required.”

On the party’s behalf, the appealed to the government to seriously study and consider introduction of ILP regulations in all parts of the state including Dimapur. “An intensive impact study needs to be carried out and public discussion must be called for so that we analyse the pros and cons of taking such a decision and how best to implement such a decision,” he suggested.

Konyak assured that the party would firmly uphold the provisions of Article 371 (A) for the people of Nagaland. “Any opposition to such a stand is obviously against the interest of the people,” he added.

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