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Editorial

Nagas Decoyed ?

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Dec 13, 2016 1:02 am
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The political drama that was staged in the state with two burning issues confronting the tribal institutions since July has taken such twists and turns that it has reached a point where even a layman can see something uncanny in the timing as if the issues are connected in some way. The two issues that were in the forefront causing unrest within the tribal organisations especially the Naga Hoho and its affiliates reached such levels that it seemed the Naga traditional setup was at stake.

This issue cropped up because of the letter of Naga Hoho dated September 22, 2008 wherein it approved the recognition of the Rongmeis who settled prior to statehood on similar lines as the other indigenous inhabitants. The letter from the Naga Hoho was quite clear from the instant that it had used the same subject line in the letter that was received from the government asking for its opinion on granting recognition; a practice that is common unless a reference number and a date is used in the subject line. However as the issue became quite contentious and it instead became ambiguous since the government had notified the recognition of the Rongmei as a Scheduled Tribe in 2013 stating that it had consulted the tribal organisations including Naga Hoho. Even though other organisations like the Eastern Naga Peoples’ Organisation (ENPO) and the Angami Public Organisation(APO) had protested and written to the government in 2013 itself to derecognise Rongmei tribe, the three member tribes of the Central Naga Tribes Council (CNTC) namely the Sumis, Lothas and Aos gave an ultimatum on July 31 2016 to the Naga Hoho to withdraw its letter of ‘endorsement’ of Rongmeis as an indigenous inhabitant within a month.

Just ten days after this ultimatum, on August 10 the government went back on its earlier Assembly resolution of another September 22, one from 2012 that set aside Part IX A of the constitution till Nagaland could frame its own laws for the municipalities. Conversely on this day the Cabinet took a decision to hold municipal election with 33% women reservation and it was announced accordingly.

On the other hand Naga Hoho initially stuck to its earlier stand that it did not endorse the recognition of Rongmeis as a Scheduled tribe but as an indigenous inhabitant like the Kukis, Kacharis etc. as stated in the government notification No. AR-8/76 of April 28 1977. As the dateline given in the ultimatum given by the three tribal organisations of CNTC came to an end, starting September 10 all the three apex tribal organisations started to dissociate from the Naga Hoho one by one and by the last week of September all the three tribal organisations, Sumi Hoho, Lotha Hoho and Ao Senden were out of the Naga Hoho. The appeal by its respective tribal legislatures, Naga nationalist groups and also by the Naga Hoho for a relook went unheeded.

The government was also set to conduct the municipal elections at the earliest and it made its intention clear but for the revision of electoral rolls. The Naga Hoho, already with its hands full, could come up with its opposition to certain sections of the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 only in the middle of October but it did not prompt any reply from the government. Then it was only on October 22 that a former legal adviser of the state government pointed out the legal loopholes of the cabinet decision since it cannot supersede the assembly resolution. As newspapers across Nagaland broke this news it was followed by expert opinions from all on the legality of the cabinet decisions and especially the threat possibly faced by Article 371(A) if Part IXA was applied in the state. Though the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 was kept on hold since the assembly resolution of September 22, 2012 it was again discussed and deliberated in public retrospectively by all and sundry including the chief minister of the state.

As the winter session of Nagaland Legislative Assembly approached, the two organisations, Naga Hoho and CNTC that were earlier at loggerheads over the Rongmei recognition issue seemed to have come to a realisation. This came after the consultative meeting called by the government of all the tribal bodies but could not make any headway. The CNTC also joined on November 20, 2016 and it came out with a statement in opposition to the 33% women reservation in urban local bodies since it is against the customary practices. However the NLA on expected lines on its first day of the session on November 22 moved for revocation of its earlier decision. On the same day the Naga Hoho also finally withdrew its letter of September 22, 2008 to the government on the Rongmei recognition issue rendering it null and void. The next day the Naga Hoho gave a last appeal to the legislators not to go ahead with the revocation and to maintain status quo of the assembly resolution of 2012. However the NLA on November 24, revoked its earlier resolution and re-enacted the Nagaland Municipal Act 2001 with its latest amendments.

The Naga Hoho and ENPO are now trying to again go for another revocation by the NLA. Comparatively, the Rongmei recognition issue actually need not have been given such prominence because if there are genuine settlers prior to statehood then they have their basic universal rights and the law will take its own course. However the application of Part IX A of the constitution requires a much bigger audience and deliberation since it might have bigger ramification as indicated by experts. The people of Nagaland might have gone through one of the best instances of cognitive bias in a mass scale not unlike the recent American elections. However it also prompts us to have a relook at the leaders that we select/elect to lead our tribal bodies. It is time to raise the standards of these posts starting with the persons who hold these post.

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Dec 13, 2016 1:02:22 am