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Op-Ed

The Hornbill Festival: What are we celebrating anyway?

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By EMN Updated: Nov 30, 2013 10:14 pm
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Kaka D. Iralu

[dropcap]I [/dropcap]am not against the celebration of the horn Bill festival which is celebrated every year beginning from December 1 in order to commemorate the State inauguration day. This year specially, we are celebrating it for 10 days in commemoration of 50 years of Nagaland’s Statehood. The Hornbill festival is a festival that looks like a beautiful flower showcasing the vibrant and varied culture of the Nagas. Hence, it cannot, but be appreciated for its beauty. However, like any other flower, the Hornbill festival flower too is perched on some branches stem and roots. I would therefore like to draw the attention of the reader to the whole tree on which the flower is perched rather than just looking at the flower in isolation.1. THE ROOT: The root of the Hornbill Festival is of course the 16 point Agreement which led to the formation of the State of Nagaland on Dec. 1, 1963. This demand for statehood was engineered by the Naga people’s Convention (NPC). The NPC was in turn, formed under the patronage of Indian Government agents like S.M. Dutt. The original purpose of the NPC was to form a mediating committee for bringing the Government of India and the Federal Government of Naga land (FGN) to a meeting place in order to resolve the conflict between the two nations. However, this mediating body completely by-passed the FGN and negotiated a settlement with the Indian Government on July 26, 1960. The mediator thus became the negotiator and negotiated an agreement with only one party of the conflict.
2. THE STEM: The stem of the Hornbill Festival is of course Article 371 A of the Constitution of India. This special article laid the legal and Constitutional foundation for the creation of the Nagaland state as the 24th state of the Indian union of 1947. This special provision for the state of Nagaland was done through the 13th amendment of the Constitution of India.
3. BRANCHES OF ARTICLE 371 A:
Article 371A of the Constitution of India has two special branches. These special branches are Article 371 A (a) and (b).Article 371A (a)begins with the words: “ Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution-no acts of parliament in respect of religious or social practices of the Nagas; Naga customary law and procedure; administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary laws; ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.”
4. Article 371A (b) also begins with the words: “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution-The Governor of Nagaland shall have special responsibility with respect to law and order in the state of Nagaland…” The powers of the Governor went on to state: “Provided that if any question arises whether any matter is or is not a matter as respects which the Governor is under this sub-clause required to act in the exercise of his individual judgment, the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called into question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in the exercise of his individual judgment.”
In this context, “Notwithstanding” means, in spite of anything written in the Constitution of India. Therefore, it can be legitimately stated that in the context of Nagaland, the Governor of Nagaland is placed in a position that is higher than the Parliament of India or even the Constitution of India. The Governor of Nagaland is also empowered with both Legislative and Executive powers.
Now, the first branch of Article 371A (a) gives an extraordinary special status for the state of Nagaland which is not enjoyed by any other states in the Indian union. This status provides that besides religion, customary laws and criminal justice, even land and its resources shall belong to the people of Nagaland.
However, the second branch which is Article 371 A (b) takes away all these extraordinary rights by giving law and order responsibility to the Governor with indisputable and unlimited powers. After all what more dictatorial powers can be given to an individual than words like, “ the decision of the Governor in his discretion shall be final, and the validity of anything done by the Governor shall not be called in question on the ground that he ought or ought not to have acted in the exercise of his individual judgment.”
When all these different aspects of the Hornbill tree is taken into consideration, the final picture that emerges is like this: On the one hand, under Article 271 A, we Naga have been given a status unprecedented and unsurpassed in the annals of democratic constitutional history. However, on the other hand, under the same article, an unprecedented and unsurpassed dictatorial rule of a Governor has been imposed on the Nagas for the past 50 years.
As for details of how the Governor can uproot and relocate entire villages from one place to another and other sweeping powers, refer to The Nagaland Security Regulation Act 1962, The Assam Maintenance of public Order Act 1953, the Assam Disturbed area act 1955. AFSPA 1958etc. (To our favor and gratitude, neither the present Governor of Nagaland or his two predecessors have ever arbitrarily exercised their powers to our detriment).
In the final analysis, the Hornbill Festival flower that celebrates the formation of the state of Nagaland, is sitting on rather precarious branches! But more alarming is the stem that has been slowly rotting away because of the corrupted white ants eating away the tree from the very trunk. These white ants made their way to the trunk from the roots because the roots of the tree are planted in the soil of the political and geographical lie that Nagas are Indians and Nagaland is Indian Territory.
In conclusion, after the granting of Article 371A, we received much financial and economic assistance from the Government of India. But politically, we did not get anything from either the 16 Point Agreement or Article 371A. In fact politically, everything that we had was taken away by these two acts. In the end it left us floating in the air with nothing but a Hornbill Festival to celebrate all our past glory and culture.

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By EMN Updated: Nov 30, 2013 10:14:01 pm