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Being the Governor and the Interlocutor simultaneously: The Unraveling of Contradictions

Nagaland Governor and Interlocutor R.N. Ravi is not the most consistent when judged by the following actions. Much before he was appointed Interlocutor, Mr. Ravi almost ridiculed the Indo-Naga ‘peace talks’ as a mere ‘game’ in one of his articles published in The Hindu newspaper. However, when he got the opportunity, Interlocutor Ravi, went on to make history by signing the ‘Framework Agreement’ with the NSCN (IM), the same group he chastised in his writings. Surprisingly, Mr. Ravi lends support to this peace agreement and the other, signed with the NNPGs, after initially stating that the Naga peace talks were an ‘anatomy of hoax’.

Later, Mr. Ravi questioned his predecessors—K. Padmanabhaiah and R.S. Pandey— for perpetuating the ‘status quo’. While Mr. Padmanabhaiah served as the longest Interlocutor so far, Mr. Pandey served for three years but both did not have the luxury of being Governors. Mr. Ravi will complete 6 years as Interlocutor this coming August but his allegation of previous Interlocutors having “entrenched vested interests in the status quo” actually holds no water because he could well become the longest serving Interlocutor who doubles up as a Governor.

Now, the Interlocutor is again doing a flip over by ridiculing Naga political groups and conveniently blaming them of ‘brazenly running their respective so called Governments’. The Naga public may, therefore, want to know as to what Interlocutor Ravi has been doing in his talks with ‘armed gangs’ and what kind of solution should people expect from such an ‘anatomy of hoax’ under his watch as the Interlocutor.

The State of Affairs

The Naga Rising appreciates the acumen and concern of our honorable Governor on the sorry state of affairs in Nagaland and we support any move to eradicate the ills that are destroying the health and vitality of our community–––the state and its institutions. Whether it is corruption, governance deficit or the uncertainty prevailing because of prolonged peace talks, Naga people are desirous to see change and resolution to help rebuild our land.

Many of the public concern over unabated taxation by Naga UGs cannot, however, be approached purely as a law and order problem because the related subject of designated camps, movement of armed cadres and their activities are defined and regulated by the ceasefire ground rules under the watch of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Hence, the intricacy of the ground realities in Nagaland cannot be solved simply by resorting to the Governor’s special responsibility under Article 371 A.

In a four-page letter to the Chief Minister dated June 16, 2020, Governor Ravi observed how “day to day unrestrained depredations by over half a dozen organized armed gangs, brazenly running their respective so called ‘Government’, challenging the legitimacy of the state government without any resistance from the state law and order machinery has created a crisis of confidence in the system.”

Arguing that the ‘scenario in the State is grim’ and ‘law and order has collapsed’, Mr. Ravi proposed to invoke a provision of Article 371 A. The Naga Rising would like to state that the relevance of the said clause in the statute book needs to be relooked in the changed political context.

Citing what could be at best considered a relic from the past, the Governor assumes that his office has special responsibility with respect to law and order in Nagaland. The reference to ‘internal disturbances’ (as mentioned in Article 371 A) has lost its meaning since the Government of India entered into a ceasefire with the Naga groups and rolled out a peace process.

Moreover, the reference to internal disturbances in the Naga Hills Tuensang Area ‘immediately before the formation of that State’ do not exist anymore. Now therefore, the conditions of today that the Governor refers to—large scale systemic corruption and extortion, parallel governments etc.—are different from the ‘internal disturbances’ occurring prior to statehood.

Today, the Naga people have invested their time and effort towards the political process to resolve the political issue peacefully and, therefore, the question of hostility does not arise. If there is ‘internal disturbance’, it is largely the sum of post-1997 architecture for which the GoI is equally accountable.

Interlocutor Ravi should know that the GoI is equally answerable for the present state of ‘armed gangs’ roaming and operating under the watchful eyes of the ceasefire regime. Mr. Ravi may also answer who authorized the setting up of designated camps of the ‘armed gangs’ and whether they are the same groups he has been talking to and engaging with as the Interlocutor.

A Relic from the Past

Although Article 371 A (1) (b) remains in the statute book, The Naga Rising takes this public stand that this clause should be treated as a dead letter. According to India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was instrumental in the creation of Nagaland, the special powers given to the Governor are to be ‘temporary’ i.e., they would become irrelevant as the situation normalizes.

Official papers also indicate that the Naga delegates who were signatories to the 16-Point Agreement had wished that the special responsibility of the Governor would cease when normalcy returns were ‘recorded’.

During the discussion in Parliament on the Thirteenth Amendment Bill and State of Nagaland Bill in August 1962, Nehru clarified to members about some of the doubts and concerns related to the 16-Point Agreement and Article 371 A. Nehru himself said during one of the discussions that “some of the criticisms made were about the Governor’s powers”. According to Nehru: “It is a full-fledged State with certain temporary restrictions. The temporary restrictions are, first in regard to the law and order situation, secondly in regard to certain finances, and thirdly in regard to the Tuensang district.

Even when this special responsibility was to be exercised, those who put it in the statute book were aware of the concerns to delegate such powers to a single person or office. According to Nehru (before the Nagaland State bill was passed), “although in theory the Governor had all powers, our instructions to the Governor were, when they were carried out, to consult the Interim Council on all the measures to be taken and to act as far as possible in accordance with their advice”.

Continuing with this provision under Article 371 A (1) (b) and taking resort to such power is undemocratic and amounts to delegating police powers to an office that is unelected and not accountable to the people. The Naga Rising will continue to oppose such policy and action through peaceful and democratic means.

Though Article 371 A (1) (b) is a dead letter, there is no guarantee that this relic will not be invoked again in future and, therefore, The Naga Rising is of the strong view that the said clause should be deleted from the statute book.

The Naga Rising upholds the Naga people’s stand that we as a society would never allow our rights to be trampled nor will it support the corruption of its democratic institutions, which has gone on for too long under successive elected governments since statehood.

The Naga Rising

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