Naga Hoho denounces Forest Amendment Bill as threat to tribal identity
DIMAPUR — The Naga Hoho on Wednesday opposed the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023, calling it a threat to Nagaland’s constitutional protections and tribal Identity.
In a press statement, the hoho said that the regressive legislation threatens to infringe upon the constitutional protections guaranteed to Nagaland under Article 371 (A) and poses a dire threat to the rights and heritage of the scheduled tribes.
It claimed that the bill has set off alarm bells across tribal communities, and under the guise of protection, the bill expands the state’s reach into the heart of the traditional way of life.
“It opens doors to excessive government control over the forests and lands, raising concerns that these precious resources may fall prey to the interests of private capitalists, exploiting and extracting the natural riches in the name of development,” it alleged.
The Naga Hoho said that it firmly believes that the government’s claim of protecting forests through such measures is a smokescreen for allowing commercial interests to prevail over the wellbeing and rights of the people, and any policy that disregards such concerns and aspirations in the name of development is an affront to the principles of justice and equity.
“This legislation reflects a disregard for the sanctity of the tribal practices and an erosion of autonomy,” the statement read.
The hoho said that it is deeply concerned about the potential fallout from the bill, which stands in stark contrast to the age-old community initiatives aimed at conserving the forests, and that it is crucial for the government to recognise that tribal communities, particularly the Nagas, have been the custodians of forests through community-led initiatives deeply rooted in the culture.
These practices must be respected and nurtured, rather than undermined by the ill-conceived legislation, the hoho said, adding that it denounces the government’s ulterior motives in potentially converting the region into a ‘security zone’ under the pretext of national security.
“Such a move, while purportedly for security reasons, runs the risk of sidelining economic prosperity and focusing solely on a security-centric approach,” it claimed.
The hoho further maintained that the economic and developmental aspirations of the region must not be overshadowed by security concerns and called upon the state government to safeguard the constitutional rights and the rich heritage of the Nagas.
“We demand that the state legislates to ensure that this harmful amendment does not find a foothold in the state,” it said, adding that it remains committed to preserving the Naga way of life and ensuring that the rights and aspirations of the Naga people are respected.