Thursday, May 6, 2021

Loudly silent

The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) had spear-headed the bandh, called by the North East Students Organization (NESO), against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, in all Northeastern States, on January 8. Then the other day, the NSF put up black flags to continue the NESO-led protest against the same Bill, as was done in all other Northeastern States. Other than that, the NSF has remained quite quiet on the issue ~ it has yet to put any pressure on the State Government not to support this Bill and to record its protest with the Central Government, besides the NESO-led protests. But it is clear that our students’ organization is against this highly objectionable Bill ~ otherwise it could have said no to NESO’s call for bandh on January 8, even though it is a constituent member of the NESO. The Naga Tribes Council (NTC) has also gone on record protesting against this Bill besides the Nagaland Public Rights Awareness and Action Forum (NPRAAF), which appealed to the PDA Government to immediately enforce the Bengal Frontier Regulation 1873 in the entire State of Nagaland. It is debatable whether what is commonly known as the Inner Line Permit is any defense against the Citizenship Bill ~ it wasn’t against the influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh for decades. Yes, the opposition NPF is also now going hammers and tongs against this Bill but other than that, most other political parties remain loud in their silence ~ whether for or against the Bill. Interestingly, NGOs, or civil societies, which are very conspicuous in the media, also seem to remain distanced from the issue ~ or perhaps, nothing matters to them except an honourable settlement to the Naga issue, which is their prerogative but for the fact that the Bill has all the potentials to de-enfranchise us every which way in our own land. And that actually is the crux of the matter. As long as the State of Nagaland and the people in it remain a part of the Indian Union, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to laws already enacted by the Indian Parliament and the laws that are in the process of being enacted ~ because all of them apply to us. And our cultural, social and religious freedoms protected by Article 371 (A) are no defense against all others laws that have nothing to do with our cultural, social and religious freedoms. Now take for instance the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notification authorizing ten Central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system, which thankfully has been petitioned in the Supreme Court in a PIL filed by an Advocate seeking the quashing of the Government’s December 20 notification. On January 14, the Supreme Court reportedly issued a notice to the Centre and sought a response, within six weeks. Recall that according to the notification, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and failing to do will invite 7-year imprisonment and fine. You may also recall that the ten agencies notified under the new order are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, Northeast and Assam) and Delhi Police Commissioner. Media reports state: “The Government had come under fire for its order with the Opposition accusing the Centre of running a “police state”. The Government, however, later clarified that “no new powers” had been conferred to the agencies and that the same rules were brought in by the UPA Government in 2009.” Although Nagaland Page had reported this in our December 11 issue, not a single word on this has been uttered by our State Government, the state Opposition, any political party and personality, NGOs/civil societies, our rights bodies or any individual. It is plain that we are least concerned about any issue that is not “Naga”. However, the fact is any constitutionally mandated issue, as also laws passed in Parliament and notifications of the Central Government pertaining to national security, etc., definitely affects us every which way. And so, now we must logically answer how Article 371 (A) and the Inner Line Permit protect us from what is decided in Delhi.