The Government of India has made it amply clear that the subject of “Sovereignty” and “Integration” is no longer negotiable. The NSCN (IM) is however singing a new song of sovereignty these days known as “shared sovereignty”. There is no such thing as a “shared sovereignty”. The very essence of sovereignty only means a complete independent entity with absolute authority where no other force on earth can dictate terms to it. The moment sovereignty is “shared”, the very meaning of sovereignty becomes obsolete. In simple candid terms it only means that the Nagas are and will continue to be bound by the Constitution of India with a semblance of comparative autonomy to traditionally and customarily address its kitchen affairs as stipulated by Article 371 A. This is perhaps the closest we can get to describe the concept of shared sovereignty. The rest will perhaps be but a window dressing of some economic packages wrapped in a symbolic Naga Flag as the final solution. Pragmatic wisdom has deserted Nagas once more at the most needed juncture of history in not being able to stand together as one united people to unambiguously let India know what the Nagas want.
Meanwhile, we the Nagas of Nagaland ourselves are slowly but surely attempting to chip away even the very fundamental protective legal foundry that we have…on which the State of Nagaland was structured by our first generation. Consider the pathetic concept of a “Nagaland Special Development Zone” (NSDZ). One fails to fathom why the Nagas are in such a tearing hurry to usher in industrialisation and urbanisation in the most viable foothill areas of the State by waiving all existing legal barriers to allow even non-locals to acquire residential rights and absolute title over immovable properties. One still truly have faith in the competence of our younger generation being able to bring about industrialisation in due course, the moment Naga political issue is done and over with…where rampant multiple taxation by our NNPGs become a nightmare of the past. It would be a horrendous mistake to barter away their impending entrepreneurial opportunity and space to the non-locals at this stage. With the dark foreboding cloud of “Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016” floating towards us, NSDZ is bound to become a fertile landing ground for the rich legalised Hindu immigrants, the moment this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.
In a game of survival the best option that now remains for the Nagas is to ensure that Article 371 A is never abrogated by the Indian Parliament…in the similar way GoI has been pondering over Article 371 related to Jammu & Kashmir. We need to protect it with all our might as a vibrant legal status handled with absolute stringency, maintaining Naga honour, identity and dignity. Let us refresh our minds with the significance of what Article 371A says: (1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution: (a) No Act of Parliament in respect of: (i) religious or social practices of the Nagas; (ii) Naga customary law and procedure; (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law; (iv) 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. By any stretch of imagination if we still want to save face by claiming ‘shared sovereignty’ within the Indian Constitution…this is it.
It is most unfortunate that the Nagas have still not quite understood the legal strength vested in the Nagas through Article 371A. For Nagas, the present hot debate for or against Citizenship Bill should firmly be sealed in no uncertain terms by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly that even if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, Nagaland Assembly resolves not to accept or implement it. Period. While the custom of adoption does sparingly exist within some Tribes, this “Citizenship Bill” proposes a whole scale legal immigrant population transition into vulnerable North East zones that include Nagaland, which no sensible Naga custom or tradition can tolerate or absorb. This Bill is a serious threat to Naga identity and can eventually bring about a dramatic change to the entire demographic status of the Nagas where we will finally become servants of the Hindu immigrants in our own Christian land. This is one subject that should not be perceived through the prism of a Political Party…it is an issue that will critically endanger our common destiny and that of our children…no matter which political party one may belong.
This impending tsunami in the guise of Citizenship Amendment Bill also brings up a sharp focus on the matter of ILP. Today, ILP is indifferently being abused as a source of pocket money by the bureaucrats. One has often ventilated a point of view that ILP should be held in the same status as that of a Passport with a dedicated department dealing with it exclusively. It is a very responsible duty of diligently protecting our Naga identity. A serious streamlining is an imperative with a strict verification protocol put in place if we do not want to be swamped by illegal Non-Naga immigrants in our own land. Electoral registration should also be more stringently regulated in the case of Non-local immigrant and wipe out this deliberate ‘vote bank’ stupidity that has capsized the sensibility of the Naga society thoroughly.
The time is rife for the Nagas to salvage their honour and their dignity. If today’s elder generation at the helms of affair do not wake up to the challenges at hand, the ultimate price for our indifferent stupidity will have to dearly be paid by our younger generation. Let us avoid knowingly displacing ourselves in our own land…so help us God to do the right thing.
Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Retd)
3rd Mile Thilixu Village
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