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Op-Ed

Public statement on Rongmei tribe recognition

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By EMN Updated: May 07, 2014 10:19 pm
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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]boriginal Naga tribes of Nagaland are the native Naga tribes inhabiting the land, presently demarcated as Nagaland State since time immemorial and before colonization by the outsiders and certain other tribal born out of re-organization of the aboriginal Naga tribes of Nagaland duly approved by Nagaland Tribes Council and notified by the State Government of Nagaland.
We believe that the Creator has led us from our forefathers down to the present generation, from time immemorial to the memorable time of the day and it is our bounden duty as ‘son of the soil’ to vigilantly preserve and protect the inviolability of its people, land & resources and to cherish the given uniqueness with honour.We acknowledge the fraternal relationship of the Nagas as one community irrespective of geo-political barrier and division and continue to aspire that one day the Nagas will be able to live together as one people one nation. We sincerely hope and pray that the Almighty God in his own time will deliver us from the multitude of problems through honourable settlement and solution. In the meantime, we are oblige to respect the ownership and status of the other Naga brethren in their respective settlement and their given rights and privileges enjoyed by one and all. In the same spirit the Nagas of Nagaland State as a definite tribal entity have the sole prerogative of ownership over its land & resources and its secured privileges/status granted to the State. Hence we expect mutual recognition as well as acceptance of the reality of our exclusive position as aboriginal people of the existing State that is till such time a new inclusive arrangement is curved out for all.
We register our deep appreciation to the founding members and the successive leadership for their sagacity and veracity which has brought about policies and programs ideal for the statehood and emphatically provided requisite protective laws and measures for the defined tribes and their land & resources.
The guideline notification dated the 28th of April, 1977 No.AR-8/876 had clearly defined the status of Indigenous Inhabitants of the State of Nagaland. The criteria for determining a person to have had a permanent settlement in the State of Nagaland prior to 1-12-1963 must be a person whose name or parent’s name or legitimate guardian’s name, in case the person was then a minor should have been enlisted in the Electoral Roll published on 5-12-1963; or a person or his/her parents or legitimate guardian should have been paying house tax prior to 1-12-1963; or a person or his/her parents or legitimate guardian should have acquired property and possessed patta prior to 1-12-1963.
Notification as Scheduled Tribe and recognition of a community as per the Constitution of India vide article 342, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is the nodal Ministry for notification of community as Scheduled Tribe. However, the responsibility for verification of social status of a community and recognition of such community in a particular state or district as indigenous inhabitant tribe and issuing of Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate to any individual member rest with the concerned State Government. Nevertheless, the State Government should do so in consonance with the prescribed policies and legislated laws of the State as stated above.
The Committee headed by Shri J. Alam, IAS Home Commissioner, Nagaland clearly stated in its report “Such a status, while entitling them to avail all the benefits of reservation to pursue employment and education will not make them an indigenous Naga tribe of the State”. Members of Rongmei community who are qualified as per the criteria as laid down by a notification dated the 28th of April, 1977. No.AR-8/876 is entitled to be an indigenous inhabitant of the State of Nagaland. Nonetheless, such entitlement will not make them indigenous Naga tribe of the State. The Committee after having intense investigation on the social status of Rongmei community in the State and perusal of all relevant provisions and legislated laws of the State had proposed to the State Cabinet not to recognize Rongmei community as indigenous tribe in the State. The State Cabinet blatantly discarded the expert committee findings and had taken political decision to recognize Rongmei tribe as indigenous inhabitant tribe of the State of Nagaland against the popular wishes and interest of the people.
It is pertinent to state here that certain section of people have taken the hospitality of the Nagas of Nagaland for granted and intruded inside beyond acceptable limit disregarding the exclusive ownership and rights given to the citizens thereby creating a complex situation where the citizens of the state are driven out to resist such intrusion and protect its exclusive status and privilege. This irrational step has polarized the otherwise potential common force to pursue a long range common interest. We appeal for good will, mutual recognition acceptance of each other’s position in the given situation so as to maintain the fraternal relationship that we have had enjoyed from time immemorial.
Some empirical facts on Rongmei tribe recognition issue:
1. No ground to Claim recognition
That there are no names of Rongmei enlisted in the electoral roll of 5th Dec 1963 under Kohima District, as certified by the Joint Chief Electoral Officer & PIO, Kohima vide his letter No. ELE/RTI-2/2013/1758 Dt. 12/03/2013 and also there are no names of Rongmei enlisted in the electoral roll of 5th Dec. 1963 under Peren District as certified by Asst Election Officer & PIO Peren, vide his letter No. ELE/RTI/2010-13/639 Dt. 10/01/2013. The RCN while clarifying the statement of Western Sumi Hoho (WSH) admitted “there is no Rongmeis’ land in Peren District till date” as appeared in Morung Express Dt. 30th Sept. 2007. The right to recognition as claimed by RCN without ancestral land or demarcated territory is groundless and it is only creating animosities, distrust and resentment among Naga family.
2. Gauhati High Court Interim Order
The Hon’ble Guwahati High Court in W.P.(C) No. 4519/12 for compliance with the order Dt. 22/11/2012 also passed an order: “the State of Nagaland shall follow the annexure-1 notification 28.4.1977 in respect of certificate pertaining to ‘Indigenous Inhabitant’ in the State of Nagaland”. It may be stated that the names of the members of Rongmei Community did not appear in the Electoral Roll on 5.12.1963 and also they did not fulfill the other conditions stipulated in the abovementioned Notification dated 28.04.1977. The Hon’ble Gauhati High Court directed the State Government not to issue ‘Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate’ to the members of Rongmei Community. Therefore, the claim of 1313 of Rongmeis’ to have permanent settlement in Nagaland prior to 1st Dec. 1963 is bogus and misleading.
3. Recruitment in to Government jobs with BOGUS CERTIFICATES
The recent controversies on the genuineness of Shri Sachui Kamei, S/o. Talung Kamei a Rongmei candidate who claims to have hailed from Zeliang Tribe was issued an Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate and Scheduled Tribe Certificate by the Deputy Commissioner of Kohima during 2004 qualifying him to sit for job interview in the Social Welfare Department was later selected for the post of LDA-Cum-Computer Assistant against the seat reserved for Zeliang Tribe(BT). The NTC question is how a reserved seat against Zeliang Tribe was given to a candidate hailed from Rongmei Community and how an Indigenous Inhabitant Certificate was issued to a candidate who did not satisfy the criteria as laid down in Govt. Notification No. AR-8/8/76 dated Kohima, the 28th April, 1977. The blatant act of the State is one glaring instance of the State allowing the non-aboriginal tribe to take advantage in snatching away the rightful share of the genuine citizen of the State. This is a deceitful act of robbing a rightful brother’s share leading to a most unwanted inter-tribal conflict between the two thereby destroying the existed bond of unity amongst the Nagas.
4. Once the door is open there can be no STOPPING later
The NTC has serious reservation on the issue of recognition of other tribes apart from the Naga aboriginal tribes of Nagaland State as indigenous inhabitant tribe of Nagaland. The fact is that the Rongmei Tribe recognition has already created a bad precedence. Henceforth, when any tribe from outside Nagaland State applies for the same it has to be treated at par with the Rongmei lest it becomes discriminatory. Rongmei Tribe recognition has opened a flood gate and now the Nagas of Nagaland would be overwhelmed and stampeded as actually happened in the last recruitment drive of Graduate Teachers of 2012 in Peren District of Nagaland as a consequence of recognition accorded to Rongmei Tribe.
5. Government notification dt.28.04.1977 is without BIAS
The above mentioned notification was enacted without any prejudice nor by issuing this notification did the State Govt commit any “historical injustice” to any community or communities as was alleged by some persons with vested interest. It is the considered opinion of the NTC that it would be the greatest mistake the Nagas will ever make for the future generations, if dual Indigenous Inhabitant Naga Tribal Status is to be granted to some Naga tribes residing in two or more states. Such precedence may poison the Naga happy family although settled in different states and countries. It is also observed that the present “recognition issue” is creating confusion, division, hatred and bitterness among the Nagas by making claim and counter claim through various print medias and social medias. The callousness of the State Government towards its own citizens and the audacity of RCN to claim what is not entitled to them as a matter of certain right has created unreasonable confusion and uproar in our Naga society today.
6. The NTC Stand for NAGA INTEGRATION
The NTC is all out committed to the cause of Naga integration in all possible ways and means. NTC takes pride to state that till date all Nagas hailed from different states and regions enjoy equal social Naga tribal status without any discrimination or distinction in the State of Nagaland. However, as far as the question of modification of the Notifications and granting of Indigenous Inhabitant Naga Tribal Status to those outside the State of Nagaland is concerned, the NTC is of the view that an individual member of a particular tribe having immovable property or having resided in the state over a considerable length of time does not necessarily sanction his whole tribe should be recognized as an Indigenous Inhabitant Naga Tribe of Nagaland. As the Notification has stipulated provisions and conditions for the individual inhabitants to be recognized as indigenous inhabitant of the State, NTC urges the State Govt. to strictly adhere to the said notification and not act otherwise. It is pertinent to state here that any deviation from the existing legislated law of the land will become detrimental to the interest of the Nagas of Nagaland and the fraternal relationship of Naga brethren. It is of paramount importance for the Naga tribes to respect and acknowledge the situational reality with mutual recognition and acceptance to collectively strive for a larger common cause.
7. The NTC is for the NAGAS OF NAGALAND
The NTC reiterates its stand that it is not against Naga unity as Nagas belong to the “common family of the same racial stock”. However, it is an undeniable fact that every Naga tribe resides in a particular geographical area as a tribe and these geographical areas are grouped into districts, states and even countries. These tribes are recognized as indigenous inhabitant of the particular district or state where they reside or inhabit. The patriotic Rongmei Nagas occupied Tamenlong district of present day Manipur. Likewise, many other Naga tribes occupied other districts of Manipur and even a sizeable portion in Myanmar. Similarly the Naga tribes of Nagaland inhabited the present geographical area of present day Nagaland and are therefore termed as indigenous inhabitant tribes of Nagaland and are accordingly given due recognition. However, any member or group of Naga tribes living outside the geographical area of the present day Nagaland cannot unvaryingly be termed or recognized or claimed as indigenous inhabitant tribe of this same state.
Despite these empirical facts, the State Government issued a blatant notification recognizing the Rongmei Tribe as an indigenous inhabitant tribe of Nagaland. Thus, the NTC is duty bound to question and challenge the illegal and immoral decision of the State Govt while protecting the rightful status and privileges of its citizens because we care the legacy we are passing on to the coming Naga generations. The bare facts mentioned above must not be taken lightly so that no further divisions and misunderstandings take place between the brethren. It is time we bury the past resentment and hate which apparently has originated in the aftermath of a denigrated cause. Let us help one another unbound the things that is enslaving our hearts. In building nationhood as it progresses, suffering and difficult situation do emerge and also the longer the duration of strife the bigger the lesson. Yet it must not be misread that we have lost hope on our common cause. Rather let us look forward to the future hope while not forgetting our immediate responsibility and accountability. The NTC sincerely believes the statement made above will be accepted as a matter of fact by each and everyone. And in humbly stating the fact and reality the NTC intends to stand by the spirit of mutual trust and recognition for lasting peace and unity now and then.

Sd/- (Theja Therieh) Sd/- (Kitoho S Rotokha) Convenor Member Secretary
Public Rally on Public Rally on
Rongmei Recognition Rongmei Recognition NTC NTC

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By EMN Updated: May 07, 2014 10:19:23 pm