Guwahati, February 4, 2019:
Former Nagaland Chief Minister SC Jamir has expressed fears that Article 371A and the Inner Line Permit (ILP) cannot protect Nagaland and its people from the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. Jamir, the former Governor of Maharashtra, Goa and Odisha, said the Neiphiu Rio-led People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) Government in Nagaland should also come out with a clear stand on the controversial Bill.
He further added that the people of Nagaland should fight the Bill “tooth and nail”.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and the State Cabinet have claimed in the past that the Bill will not be applicable to Nagaland as the state is protected under Article 371A and the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873 (ILP). Even the Governor of Nagaland in his customary Republic Day address on January 26 said the CAB is not applicable to Nagaland.
The lone surviving signatory of the 16- Point Agreement of 1960, Jamir, has said Article 317A and the Citizenship Bill are quite different.
“I think the Government of Nagaland has declared that this (Article 371A) can prevent CAB but I don’t think so. Article 371A has specific subjects – but the Citizenship Bill is quite different,” he stated. Article 371 (A) (1) begins with a “non-obstante” provision to the effect ‘notwithstanding anything in this Constitution” and further stipulates that no Act 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 law and 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.
“These are very specific… And therefore it will be wrong on the part of the Government to say that Article 371 (A) safeguards our interest vis-à-vis Amendment to the Citizenship Act,” he stated.
Jamir reminded that he had been telling from the very beginning that if Nagaland has to preserve its identity, the Government has to be very careful regarding immigrants from Bangladesh. He recalled that during partition, 9 lakh refugees were supposed to be placed in Dimapur, but NNC elders said not to accept any refugees because it would swarm up the population.
“So they retreated from Dimapur. And that has saved Nagaland because Nagaland population at the time was hardly 3 lakhs.”
“Tripura was lost to immigrants from Bangladesh. We might have faced the same fate in Naga Hills also. But our leaders of yesteryears, they were foresighted due to which we are remaining as Naga people,” he said.
Jamir also recalled that while drafting the 16 Point Memorandum, “we had taken care that outsiders should not be allowed to settle here. And therefore we have mentioned that the Inner Line Regulation should remain.”
But of course, it does not necessarily give power to Nagaland on Citizenship issue, he added.
Reiterating that Inner Line Permit cannot prevent or supersede Citizenship Amendment Act, the former Chief Minister said ILP is only to prevent foreigners to enter into the land either for business or otherwise. But it is not for settlement.
According to Jamir, the objective was that we should not allow outsiders to just enter Nagaland forbusiness or otherwise, for they may exploit us. So ILP was a preventive measure, he said.
“Thirdly we saw that unless we preserve our land and resources, then capitalists may exploit us in matters of minerals and other commercial activities. That is the reason why we mentioned in Article 371 (A) about land and its resources.”
Jamir summed up his observation on the PDA Government’s stand on the CAB thus:
“I don’t know who have advised them (PDA Government) that we are free from this Citizenship Bill.
I don’t think neither the Inner Line Permit nor 371(A) will be able to prevent the amendment to the Citizenship Act. The Home Minister has made it clear that those people coming from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, etc will be placed everywhere in the country.”
On the opposition from other Northeastern Governments to the Bill and the protests across the Northeastern states, he said people of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur know what the situation will be as a consequence of the Bill becoming an Act.
“If outsiders are majority, then we shall be minority in our own land, so people are conscious about that. But Nagaland appears not to be conscious of that,” he stated.
Jamir reminded that even the BJP Chief Minister of Manipur has opposed the Bill and sought exemption of Manipur from the Bill.
But here in Nagaland, our leaders don’t think of the people, they only think of their position, he rued. On the statement made by the Home Ministry that citizenship won’t be given without the State Government’s nod, Jamir said, “I don’t know. If all the states refuse, then what? No state will be willing to invite them (foreigners). Where are we going to send them? There is no logic in what they (MHA) are saying.”