Joint Committee demands ordinance on register for Nagaland's indigenous Inhabitants

Hundreds of residents from Kohima and Dimapur took to the streets for a peaceful rally in both districts to demand immediate implementation of the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN)—a localised version of the National Register of Citizens (NRC)—through an ordinance.

Tribal hohos, civil societies including women organisations joined the rally organised by the Joint Committee on Prevention of Illegal Immigrants (JCPI). They also submitted a memorandum to the chief minister.

Speaking at the rally outside the civil secretariat, Theja Therieh, a member of JCPI, said that since the cabinet has approved the recommendation of the Bano Committee to implement RIIN, it must now be taken to state Assembly as it needs to “become a law”.

The government to streamline the system of issue of Indigenous Inhabitant Certificates and also to maintain a record of such indigenous inhabitants had issued a Notification on June 29 in 2019 for carrying out an exercise for RIIN.

The government set up a commission headed by Bano Z Jamir, IAS for studying, examining, recommending and advising on all issues relating to RIIN which was later approved by the state cabinet.

Therieh questioned as to why it is now made law and is kept in cold storage. He said that RIIN must be implemented, made law and be enforced. As there is no system in place to regulate the identification of indigenous people, he said that RIIN will provide guidelines and define who is an indigenous inhabitant and who is not.

Several speakers who spoke at the rally also shared similar concerns. Vineipra Pienyu, the president of the Kohima district Gaon Burah (GB) Association clarified that despite being appointed by the government, the GBs have decided to join the rally as it was organized to support the government and not oppose it. Former MLA Z Lohe and Vixeto Swu, vice president of Sumi Hoho Kohima also spoke at the rally.

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In the memorandum signed by JCPI convenor Tia Longchar and secretary JCPI Atomi Swu, the JCPI, a conglomeration of apex tribal hohos, legally indigenous people and civil society organisations of Nagaland demands that the Government immediately act on the Commission’s report and make necessary law to implement RIIN exercise through an ordinance within the March 31.

It warned that if the government fails to meet its demand, the public will not have any other option but to resort to different democratic protests to achieve the desired objective.

As per the memo, once RIIN is notified, it is understood that “all genuine indigenous inhabitants will own the certificate with Unique ID leading to invalidation of existing (Indigenous Inhabitants certificate) IIC”.

The JCPI said that the implementation of RIIN will help in the identification of the residents in the state to maintain the identity, culture and privileges enshrined in the Constitution (thirteenth amendment) Act of 1962, inserted in Article 371A.

“Nagaland State is provided with special rights amongst others, to the effect 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. It is expected that once RIIN classification is completed and specific laws are legislated, the full protection and privileges will reach the deserving stakeholders,” the memorandum stated.

The JCPI also stated that it is “totally unacceptable as there can be no two cut-off years to determine the Indigenous Inhabitant in the State of Nagaland which is already a tribal State since inception”.

It also suggested that for the effective implementation of ILP, there should be a comprehensive and digitalised infrastructure, mechanism and standard operating procedure with a 24X7 monitoring cell under the Home department.

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