The enemy amongst the Nagas
Governments in Nagaland, since 1963, had been emphasizing on the inalienability of Nagas’ customary ownership rights to our land and the special status accorded to the Nagas through the Article 371(A) of the constitution. However, when the question of Oil & Natural resources of the State surfaced, the past and the present Governments had been deliberately trying to distort the meaning of the customary ownership rights for vested interests as Morung Express editorial dated 8th Oct. ‘12 pertinently pointed out that, “the political class in Nagaland including the present and past regimes had been good at picking and choosing what should come under the protection of Article 371 (A)”.Government of Nagaland in 1990 passed an Act on transfer of Land and its Resources to exploit oil resources in the State based on a faulty premise that land owners are owners of only the top soil while resources underneath belongs to the Government. This land holding system exists in the rest of the country but not in Nagaland. Despicably, no tangible voice had been raised against this idiocy if not for the providence and righteousness of then Governor, Loknath Mishra’s wise intervention. Being an Act it had to be sent to the Governor for his assent but the Governor knowing the un-tenability of the Act with the ownership rights of the Nagas referred it to the President of India who knowing fully the nature of Article 371 (A) kept it in the freezer. The present DAN Government, in its questionable fervor to exploit oil and natural resources of the State began their journey in the form of a resolution because a resolution doesn’t need Governor’s assent, but ruefully with the same contention of 1990 Act along with another silly proposition that land holding system in the State is a hindrance to developmental activities in the State. To clandestinely conform to its juvenile contention, it organized a so called ‘State level consultative meet’ at Kisama in which one of the resolutions said that “Land owners are owners of only the top soil but whatever resource lay underneath belongs to the government”, however it was jeered at after a wise intervention from a fellow participation and the resolutions were toned down to mere suggestion. Aren’t these a blatant disrespect to Naga ethos and culture just because they are unable to voice their rights? Isn’t this the reason why the Union Ministry is questioning the Nagaland Assembly resolution 2010 and P&NG Rules and Regulations 2012 precisely for this error? Wretchedly, even this has not been realized instead the latest Assembly rather than realizing its folly has reaffirmed its erroneous regulation and rules. Isn’t this capriciousness and unreliable mentality? This only indicates the poor quality of political leadership in the State which is devoid of all moral firmness and intellectual soundness.
Our customary practices and rights, existent from time immemorial, is the basis of what a Naga was, is and will be. The very Naga political struggle stems from this customary rights and practices and hence to denigrate or distort this rationale by our State Government or National workers will be simply disastrous. In other words, neither the political struggle nor the State government should overstep our customary rights and practices. Nagaland Government should always reason and act as a guardian only in its endeavor to preserve the customary ownership rights and practices of the people; other than this truth are incompetency, double standard mentality and dishonesty.
The irony is the Naga politicians and the bureaucrats are well aware of the ill effects of land holding system of other parts of the country where land occupied by people can be requisitioned or acquired by the government, with or without compensation, anytime for any government projects under the guise of development since land and its resources belong t o the Government in those States. To cite an example, in Jharkhand the moment mineral deposits were discovered the original indigenous settlers living on those resources were shunted out after pittance payment of so called land compensations. Dispossessed of their existential land, today thousands of Advasis have become landless and impoverished laborers in tea gardens and some of whom are laborers on our highways for a few rupees to meet their square meal a day. Their land now is virtually occupied by ruthless business companies. Who turned them landless and destitute? It is not the businessmen or the companies but their unfortunate land holding system and above all their own unscrupulous State politicians. This being realized of late, the UPA government appointed a group of Union Ministers led by Sharad Pawar to go into the gamut and the upcoming Monsoon session of parliament is to introduce a bill on Acquisition of Land.
The greatest fears is that Nagas, both over-ground and underground have become so hopelessly money-mongers where deceit is the spirit of arbitration that the general Naga populace is not far from being turned destitute in their land of ownership. In short, we don’t need to fear any company or Union ministers or the Government of India but our own Nagas be it over-ground or underground and our mean and shallow mentality of vested interest, jealousy and complacency that remains as the greatest threat to Naga harmonious existence and vibrancy.