Guwahati: The Lotha Hoho, a tribal council in Nagaland, has objected to the Nagaland government’s plans to collaborate with Assam for extracting oil in the disputed area belt (DAB).
The council stated that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Neiphiu Rio-led Nagaland government and the Lotha Hoho for the amendment of the Nagaland Petroleum & Natural Gas (NP&NG) Regulations and Rules 2012 on November 20, 2018.
Following the signing of the MoU, the Lotha Hoho withdrew a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against oil exploration, which was pending before the Kohima Bench of the Gauhati High Court. “Lotha understands the loss due to non-utilization of natural resources like petroleum and natural gas and hence has withdrawn the PIL. However, it has now come to light that the Nagaland State Government does not want to take advantage of its resources,” stated the Lotha Hoho in the release issued by its Chairman, Er Mhondamo Ovung and General Secretary, S Abenthung Ngullie.
“We fail to understand why the Nagaland Chief Minister is bypassing stakeholders and showing ‘so much confidence’ in Assam’s Chief Minister Dr Himanta Sarma,” the council stated. The MOU that was signed between the state govt and Lotha Hoho is a legal document, and the Lotha Hoho can revive the PIL at any time, as enshrined in the MOU,” the release stated.
The Lotha Hoho further noted that the Kohima Bench had filed a suo moto PIL (1/2019) to bring the matter to a logical conclusion, and it is still pending before the court.
The tribal council also raised concerns over the DAB, which only seems to be on the side of Nagaland, and asked why the state should accept ‘unjustified claims’ of Assam.
It also questioned the reported transfer of 12 reserved forests of Nagaland to Assam by the British for administrative convenience.
“Are these not Disputed Areas?” At the time of the creation of Nagaland State, towns like Sivasagar, Nowgong, and Lakhimpur in Assam were “taken as the tentative boundary” between the two states. Hence the line crossing these towns should be declared as the permanent constitutional boundary between the two states,” it asserted.
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Meanwhile, the Lotha Hoho stated that the amendment of the Regulations & Rules 2012 is for the benefit of all stakeholders and not only for the Lotha tribe. It pointed out some objectionable provisions in the NP&NG RR 2012 such as the requirement for a “No Objection Certificate” to be issued by non-stakeholders like Naga Hoho & ENPO and the lack of provision for royalty payment to landowners.
In this connection, the council also asked why the NOC for Lotha land should be issued by non-stakeholders and “whether these provisions are agreeable to the Nagas of Nagaland.”
Unless the MoU is honored and implemented, resulting in the amendment of the NP&NG RR 2012 as per Agreed Points, the Lotha people will not allow exploration or extraction of petroleum or natural gas within its jurisdiction, it asserted.
Rahul Dutta is a community manager with EastMojo based in Dimapur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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